To ensure kids' success in school, just learn these ABCs

Special to The TribuneAugust 27, 2013 

Help your kids be successful this school year by learning Linda Lewis Griffith's ABCs.

TALLAHASSEE DEMOCRAT ILLUSTRATION

Kids’ success in school is as simple as ABC. Follow these suggestions to help them make the grade:

A — Attend school functions. Parental involvement improves children’s learning, according to research conducted by the National Education Service. When Mom and Dad attend Back to School Night or volunteer in the classroom, they send a strong message to their children: “Your education is a top priority.” Actively involved parents have frequent contact with the school, understand the education process and offer input in the decisions that impact their students. Of course, families have lots of commitments. And parents have a wide variety of skills. The key is to pitch in as you are able. Your student will shine as a result.

B — Be available to help with homework. Parents play a key role in teaching students how to study. Establish a regular time and place to work. Limit unnecessary distractions. Review assignments with your students and understand what’s expected. Keep tabs on kids’ progress. Step in should problems arise. Some children will be nearly independent. Others require oversight every step of the way. Be sensitive to the differences and accept each learner’s style.

C — Create a stable environment. A stable environment is free from unnecessary drama. It’s generally the same day after day. Stability decreases stress and allows boys and girls to concentrate on their schoolwork. It also instills self-control. Parents create stability by instituting regular sleep and meal times, enforcing consistent rules and exhibiting their own trustworthy behavior. While kids inevitably face mishaps, they’re better able to do so when other areas of their lives are firmly grounded.

D — Dine together as a family. Family dinners and school success go hand in hand. Researchers at Columbia University found that teens who ate fewer than three family dinners in a typical week were twice as likely to do poorly in school. On the other hand, kids who regularly eat dinner with their folks are 40 percent more likely to earn A’s and B’s in school. Aim for three family dinners per week. Turn off the TV during the meal. Don’t talk on the cellphone. Keep conversations positive.

E — Eat a healthy breakfast. Mornings can be hectic. But don’t skip out on breakfast.

According to Nutrition Explorations, boys and girls who ate breakfast before school had better test scores and made fewer errors than their classmates who passed on breakfast. They also had fewer behavioral problems. Breakfast doesn’t have to be elaborate. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends such grab-and-go favorites as cereal and milk, toast and peanut butter, breakfast bars and yogurt.

F — Foster a love of reading. Reading is fundamental to academic success. It contributes to logical thinking, mastery of language, enhanced concentration and discipline. It exposes children to new experiences and places. When adults read to children, they strengthen emotional bonds.

Despite these benefits, a study conducted by Reading is Fundamental and Macy’s found that only one in three parents read bedtime stories to their children every night and 50 percent of parents say their children spend more time with TV or video games than with books. Read aloud daily to your youngsters. It doesn’t matter if they’re too young to understand. Begin reading to them as soon as they are born. Let kids select their own stories, even if it means reading the same book time after time.

G — Get technology under control. Technology is a fact of life and a tool we use every day. But it’s imperative to set limits so that it doesn’t interfere with kids’ schoolwork.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children between the ages of 8 and 18 have one to two hours of entertainment media per day. According to a study by the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, they’re getting 71⁄2 hours.

You can start managing your students’ tech habits by taking TVs out of their bedrooms. Limit their exposure to screen time. Be vigilant about what video games they’re playing. Make sure your own tech use is appropriate.

Linda Lewis Griffith is a local marriage and family therapist. For information or to contact her, visit http://lindalewisgriffith.com.

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