10 tips: Helping kids succeed at school

school busBy taking an active role in your child’s life, you can do your part to help make sure his or her school years are happy and healthy.

There are plenty of things you can do as a parent to help your child be successful in school. You can make sure he or she is well-stocked with pencils, notebooks and other school supplies. You can check out the classroom and playground to make sure they are safe environments. And you can even polish up an apple for your child to give to his or her teacher.

But what you do at home is the foundation of your child’s school success. Here are 10 things you can do to help make sure your child has the best school year possible.

1. Talk to your child every day. If you don’t ask questions, you won’t get answers. Ask about friends, schoolwork and grades. Talk about and watch out for signs of bullying.

“Communicating is probably the most important thing you can do to help your child,” says Laura Knobel, MD, a fellow of the American Academy of Family Physicians. “You need to keep communications open without being threatening.”

2. Stick to a routine. Most kids do well with structure and respond positively to a routine that helps them organize their time, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). Setting up both a morning and after-school routine can help your child get the most out of his or her day.

3. Create a launch pad. Help your child deal with the morning rush by designating a single place where backpacks, lunchboxes, jackets and school projects can be found each day.

4. Make healthy lunches. Get your child involved in lunch planning. If your child brings lunch from home, make sure it’s high in fruits, vegetables and whole grains, and skip sugary snacks and drinks and high-fat junk foods. If your child buys a school lunch, take some time each week to go over the menu and help him or her make healthy choices.

“A healthy lunch can help your child get through the afternoon,” Dr. Knobel says.

5. Plan safe after-school activities. What kids do after school can be just as important as what they do in school.

“For younger kids, you want to find an after-school program with a good reputation that offers some type of physical activity,” Dr. Knobel says.

Find a program that keeps kids moving in any type of weather. Be sure your child doesn’t stay parked in front of a television or computer for more than two hours each day.

6. Set up a homework haven. Good homework skills will help your child succeed in school. Put together a comfortable place at home with plenty of light, lots of supplies and enough room to work. It doesn’t have to be a desk. A stretch of counter with a basket of supplies will do just as well, according to the AAP.

7. Make sleep a priority. “Being tired can really impact academic ability,” Dr. Knobel says.

A set bedtime on school nights that allows your child to get at least eight hours of sleep will help him or her stay more alert throughout the school day.

8. Get involved at school. Volunteer to help out with classroom and school activities and programs. Take time to watch your child’s sporting events, plays and concerts.

“Getting involved in your child’s activities is a good way to maintain a positive relationship with your child,” Dr. Knobel says.

9. Set a date with the doctor. “A yearly visit is a good time for a doctor to not only check your child out physically, but also find out how your child is doing overall,” Dr. Knobel says. “They can talk about staying well and teach about health care, medications, allergies and other things.”

This visit is also a good time to make sure your child is up-to-date on important vaccines.

10. Bring learning home. Your child’s education shouldn’t just take place at school. Look for ways to teach your kids at home. For example, you can use cooking as a way to talk about math and science. You should also read with your children as much as possible.

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