Parents Make a Difference

  • Don’t Be Afraid to Ask Your Child’s Teacher Questions

    Parents who have good information are better equipped to help their children with the learning process.As you go into your first parent-teacher conference this year, the following questions can help you get all the information you will need:

    • What will the class be studying and learning this year?

    • What will my child’s daily schedule be like?

    • How much and what kind of homework will my child have?

    • How much time do you expect my child to spend on homework?

    • What kind of tests and feedback will you be giving?

    • What can I do to support my child’s learning at home?

    • How can I help at school?

    • Are there some materials you’d like to have in the classroom that I can contribute?

    • What’s the best way for me to communicate with you?

    • When and for what reasons do you want me to contact you?

    • When, how and for what reasons will you contact me?

    • What information about my child will help you understand and teach him/her better?

    • What tutoring or other help is available to my child, should he/she need it?

    • Are there parent support groups I should be aware of?

    Parents Can Model Good Listening Skills for Children

    Look on any report card and you won’t see a class marked “Listening.” Yet studies show that children spend between 50 and 75 percent of their time listening.

    Children need to learn listening skills. Parents can model good listening behavior for your child. Here are some tips to become a better listener:

    • You can’t fake it. Kids can tell whether you’re really paying attention by the way you reply (or don’t reply). Forget the phone. Turn off the TV.

    • Listen with your eyes as well as your ears. Look your child in the eyes as you listen.

    • Encourage your child to open up. Some kids seem to need an invitation before they’ll start talking. Try setting aside some time each day to talk about school. If you’re home after school, have a glass of milk while you listen to the story of your child’s day. If you’re at work when your child gets home, create a time for some one-on-one talk when you get home.

    • Listen patiently. All people think faster than they speak. And because children have a smaller vocabulary and less experience expressing themselves, they take even longer to find the right word. Make your child feel you have all the time in the world.

    • Listen to nonverbal messages. Tone of voice, facial expression, posture and energy level often say as much as the words your child is speaking.

    Help Your Child Develop Healthy Homework Habits

    Kids whose parents treat homework lightly have a harder time doing it. Taking these steps can help ensure your child develops good homework habits:

    • Plan a regular time for homework.

    • Turn off the TV during this time.

    • Provide a quiet, well-organized place to study.

    • Be sure your child reads and understands the directions for the assignment.

    • Be available to answer questions and give support.

    • When your child is confused, contact the teacher right away.

    • Don’t schedule too many after-school activities.

    • Check to see that your child’s work is complete and reasonably neat.

    • Set clear limits on TV and telephone time.

    • Teach time management. Have your child estimate how long an assignment will take. Then see how long it really is.

    Teach Your Child How to Be Safe All Through the Year

    Parents can’t always be with children to keep them safe. Kids need to know some common-sense rules to keep themselves safe.

    Doing the following things will increase your child’s ability to avoid danger and handle emergency situations:

    • Be sure your child knows important telephone numbers for your work, a trusted adult and 911.

    • Post your address near the telephone.

    • Plan a safe walking route to school or the bus stop.

    • Remind your child never to talk to strangers or accept gifts or rides from strangers.

    • Have your child check in with you or a neighbor when he/she gets home and is alone.

    • Tell your child not to let anyone in the house without your permission.

    • Have your child walk and play with friends, not alone.

    • Rehearse an escape plan in case of fire or another kind of emergency.

    • Teach children to settle arguments with words, not with fists.

    • Remind children that teasing can hurt friends and make enemies.

    • Encourage your child to be alert. Ask him to tell an adult if he sees anything that doesn’t seem quite right.

    • Take time to listen carefully to your child’s fears and feelings. Ask her about people and places that scare her. What or who makes her feel uneasy?

    This material was reproduced from the September 1999 issue of the Parents make a difference! Newsletter published by The Parent Institute.