It’s often a challenge to understand and provide for our children’s needs. We are aware how precious they are in our lives, and we want to be sure that we are giving them a great head start to life. But . . .

Are we doing enough to see our children progress at High School?

A whatsapp chain letter prompted me to write and review our perceptions on what we, as parents, can do, to see our children graduate at High School and move on to college, take up apprenticeship or go to college or university. The letter read:

Dear Parent/Guardian,

Your children are bringing their reports home. I know you are all really anxious for your child to do well.

What’s the meaning of “doing well?”

Please do remember, amongst the children who sat for the exams:

There is an Artist, who doesn’t need to understand Maths.
– There’s an Entrepreneur, who doesn’t care about History or English Literature.
There’s a Musician, whose Chemistry marks won’t matter.
There’s a Sportsperson, whose physical fitness is more important than Physics.

If your child got top marks, then great. But, if he or she didn’t, please don’t take away their self- confidence and dignity from them.

Tell them it’s ok, it was just an exam. They are cut out for much bigger things in life.

Tell them, no matter what they score, you love them and will not judge them.

Please do this and if you do, watch your children conquer the world. One exam or a 90% mark won’t take away their dreams and talent.

And please do not think that doctors and engineers are the only happy people in the world.

  • Be happy for them when they show you that report card.
  • Encourage them to do better.
  • Motivate those who were not successful.
  • There’s beauty in going back and giving it another shot.
  • Don’t judge them.

 They expect of you – their mother, their father, their guardian – most of all, to understand and to still believe in them.

Failing a grade can never make your children failures. Their destinies lie locked up in far greater things.

From a teacher and parent who knows…

And understands…

I was left speechless when I finished reading this letter. Were you, as well?

How Can You Support Your Child At School?

Most children can achieve well at High School when their family and friends take an interest in their school and schoolwork. Getting involved in your child’s education, even in the simplest way, shows that you care about their school life.

Often, the more supported a child feels at home, the more effectively she or he will learn at school.

Whatever your lifestyle, or family situation, it is never too soon (or too late) to start helping a child develop a positive attitude towards learning.

In this busy life we live in, I really appreciate that time can be a factor in busy families but there are ways of being involved in your child’s education without feeling overwhelmed. If you are a non-resident parent, it is equally as important to be involved in your child’s learning too. This can give your child far greater goals and inspire them to try their best where they can.

My two teenage children have led us to change our perception 100%. My daughter, at 17, left for university. We had never thought she would be away from us but, hey, there comes a time when she had to leave home. She is in England whilst we are in Egypt and soon her brother will be following. Will they be prepared for life without us? How is she coping? Is she settled and happy?  All these are questions we juggle with at times.

Young people live and learn in two worlds – home and school. The way the two connect and communicate can make an enormous difference to how children learn to manage in both places.

If teachers, parents and young people all trust, listen and talk to each other, the final goal of helping children learn and develop to their best ability is most likely to be achieved.

How do you prepare the groundwork for a teenage child at High School to cope with the rigors of life?

The team at Counselling Directory in the UK identified five strategies for parents to observe in raising confident children.

5 Top Strategies For Raising Confident Children

  1. Allow Your Child To Make Decisions For Themselves

This shows your trust in them. As your children get older, you can expand the number of choices you give them. You can also increase the importance of the decisions they make, for example, what activities they participate in or when they choose to go to bed.

With each decision, you want them to recognize whether their decisions were good or bad and that they’re responsible for the consequences of their decisions. By making this connection, they can see that their decisions are their own. Of course, you should retain veto power when needed, but it should be used judiciously.

  1. Show An Interest In What They Do

Praise achievements and encourage improvements. This will build your child’s confidence and boost their motivation. Recognise their strengths and praise their efforts. Your positive encouragement can enhance their progress at school as well as at home.

  1. Be Sure To Show Affection

Every gift which is given, even though it be small, is in reality great, if it is given with affection. Pindar Great

Warm, gentle hugs and kisses can make children feel truly loved and remind them that they are safe. Have fun together. Try to introduce new family activities such as a family bike ride, cinema trip or a family picnic.

  1. Have An Approachable And Open Attitude

“Always hear others out and remain open-minded; the day you think you know everything is the day you have the most yet to learn.” ― A.J. Darkholme

Your child needs to be able to share any problems or concerns they have with you. Keep the situation free of judgement, where you are there to listen. Try not to jump to conclusions and instead, come up with possible solutions.

  1. Be sure to have clear boundaries.

As a parent, you provide a sense of order and stability. But give them responsibilities, such as cleaning their room or helping with the cleaning. Take care to avoid being too strict and setting too many boundaries. It’s okay to let them make their own mistakes and find themselves.

It is essential to remember that parenting doesn’t come with an instruction manual.

I have personally made countless mistakes in raising our three lovely children. It has been certainly a challenge, but it’s also a blessing and we are proud that we have done our best.

Other Essential Strategies To Take Note Of

For the twelve years I taught in Manchester and London, schools were fixated with the Government policy on Every Child Matters concept. The Every Child Matters (ECM) identified five outcomes that are most important to children and young people:

  • Be healthy
  • Stay safe
  • Enjoy and achieve
  • Make a positive contribution
  • Achieve economic well-being

These core facets are all key areas that everyone working with children strive to foster and the policy helps strengthen these needs and requirements.

The safety and well-being of all children is paramount and is something that every adult – be they a parent or not – should be concerned about.

Ensure Your Child Is Healthy And Happy And The Rest Will Follow

If you do start to feel overwhelmed, don’t be afraid to ask for help. While most of the time we can talk to our loved ones, sometimes we need professional advice.

Nowadays schools are the cornerstones in shaping a student’s character. After all, they spend eight hours of the day there. The impact teachers have on students’ development is astounding. Get to know your child’s teachers and relate with them professionally.

Helping Your Child Get The Best Out Of School

Try to give encouragement and show appreciation of your child’s achievements, whether great or small, as this can help boost their confidence. Teach them basic organisation and time management skills so they are not overwhelmed with projects or homework.

Be realistic and avoid putting your child under pressure by having over-high expectations. Let your child develop at their own pace, but if you do have concerns, please speak to their teacher or seek professional advice.

Try to give feedback rather than criticism, e.g. saying ‘that didn’t seem to work’ rather than ‘you got it wrong’. This helps them think about where they went wrong and how they can improve in future, rather than just feeling like a failure.

Get To Know Your Child’s School

You might find contacting the school or talking to your child’s teachers difficult, or think they will not have time for you. But finding out more about their school life and what they are learning shows your child how much you care about their education. And getting to know the school and the teachers is the best way of finding out more.

Try to keep up with what’s happening at the school:

  • Make sure your child gives you any letters that are sent home.
  • Look out for notices and posters for parents.
  • If you can, check the school website.
  • Try to make it to the fun events, like school fairs, and to parents’ evenings.
  • If you are worried about anything, go and talk to a teacher. They will want to help.

If They’re Doing Something Wrong, Don’t Overreact!

If there’s something you’re not happy about, speak to the teacher first rather than going straight to the Director/Principal/Headteacher/Head of Year.

As one teacher wryly says: “If you’ve got a problem, come and see me first, going straight to the head is just rude. Next time I have a problem with little Johnny and your parenting style, I’ll ring your boss and see how you like it.”

Out Of School Support

Often parents like to introduce a variety of interests in and out of school too so children have the opportunity to explore other interests that they enjoy.  Learn together, do things together, visit interesting places, talk about things you’ve seen on television and encourage your child to ask questions.

Support their reading development by having books, magazines and newspapers in the home and let your child see you and other family members reading them.

When a child comes home from school, they may be tired, so try not to fire too many questions as soon as they walk through the door. They may be tired or hungry and not feel like talking. Be available to listen later if they want to talk.

Thinking Ahead

Education is more than just Maths, English and Science. Your child’s talents may lie in sport, art, music, drama, computers, or anything else; you can always help them aim high by boosting their confidence:

  • Encourage them to join after-school clubs or activities.
  • Tell your child how proud you are when they do well.
  • Let them hear you praising them to other people.
  • Talk together about their future and the kind of job they think they would enjoy.
  • Ask them to help you with things they are good at.
  • Help your child to find someone to look up to; a relative, friend or celebrity.

If Your Child Is Struggling At School

If your child has Special Educational Needs (SEN), it is even more important to be involved so you can understand what support your child is receiving at school and whether he or she is on target.

You can speak to their class teacher or the SEN Coordinator (SENCO), if your school has one. You may hear terms that are unfamiliar and if this is the case, you can always speak to the school or an expert about what these mean. Your child may have an IEP (Individual Education Plan) which is reviewed on a regular basis. This will indicate what support your child needs and how this is being met by the school.

These plans should be set with your involvement in a meeting with the teacher and SENCO. If your child does need extra help, find out from the school how he or she can be supported at home. This may be something as simple as allowing them to draw more often to help with fine motor skills, etc.

 Helping Your Child Make New Friends

If your child is worried about making new friends or is having trouble with an existing group of friends, this can add to any existing anxieties they may have around school, or may even be the main cause of their concerns.

Talk about or brainstorm a list of “friend qualities” with your child. Concepts such as: being friendly, being honest, laughing and having fun, willingness to share, being kind, and learning how to place others’ needs ahead of their own; may help your child move on. Once your child understands what sort of qualities make a good friend, you can then discuss, observe other children or even role play these qualities.

Making Homework A Part Of The Routine

Give children a chance to talk about their school work – make it a natural part of asking how their day was. Even if you know nothing about a particular subject, you can still help just by talking and listening and helping them find their own answers.

If you do not understand the work they have been given, use the internet or ask friends and family to take a look. Once you have an understanding for the work, you may be better placed to support your child.

Help your children take responsibility for organising and doing their homework. Never forget to praise your child for their hard work. Many schools have a homework diary, or daybook for parents to sign each day. This helps you and your child know that their homework is being monitored.

Creating The Right Environment Or Homework

Help your child keep to a routine. Some children prefer to do homework straight after school whereas others prefer to ‘unwind’ first, and then do homework later. Let your child decide what is right for them. Try to create a suitable place where they can do homework, ideally somewhere with a clear work surface, good lighting and no interruptions. You might have to live with some music as many children like to work with music on to keep them company.

Some children prefer to study alone, others with friends or family. If there isn’t space in your home try a local library or homework club.   Visit the local library with your child and encourage them to use it. They can use computers there to get on the internet if you don’t have access at home.

The internet can be great for looking up information and finding out more about a topic, but do note that it shouldn’t be used as a substitute for doing the work – downloading course work or essays from the web will be viewed as cheating by schools and colleges.

The following is a rough guide to how long your child should be spending on homework at High School:

  • Grade 9                             –  60-120 minutes
  • Grade 10 and 11             –  90 – 150 minutes
  • Grade 12 and 13             –  2 hours +

Getting Help From Your School

Many schools have lunchtime clubs specifically for children who struggle to do their homework at home or need support to help them complete the work. Find out if your school has a club like this, as it could help to minimise conflict at home.

Many schools have introduced homework that can be completed online and this is what may be set for your child. If you are struggling, speak to the school and get some advice sooner rather than later so they can help. If you do not have internet access for online homework, you can usually book a computer for your child at your local library.

If your child has specific learning needs and you feel the homework is an issue, make an appointment with the teacher and SENCO as soon as you can. Discuss your concerns with them and ask for some advice on managing this. It may be that they can do some of the work at school to help relieve the pressure at home. They may struggle with mainstream homework and may need an alternative.

How Much Sleep Does My High School Child Needs?

Between the ages of 11 and 18, your child will need 8.5 – 10 hours of sleep a night.

It can be difficult to encourage older children to keep to a regular bedtime, but it’s important to try.

Experts have linked a lack of sleep to problems with behaviour, concentration and achievement at school.

A lack of sleep can contribute to weight gain too, because it inhibits the production of appetite-controlling hormones.

Older children often don’t realise they’re cutting back on their sleep. Talk to your child – if they are finding it difficult to get up in the morning, suggest earlier nights.

A routine can be hard to enforce, but you can make your older child’s bedtime an opportunity for some quality time with you, just as you did when they were at primary school. Why not make it a regular habit to have a brief end of day chat with them before they put the light out?

In the end, children will continue to grow socially as they progress through High School. With the support of school and parental love and coaching, children will become better and will enjoy the journey towards meaningful friendships; will become confident and competent in meeting face to face with dilemmas teenagers of their age face.

Lastly, . . .

I will leave you with two poignant quotes to ponder about, Dear Reader:

“Parents, keep your children closer when they are young, because they will keep you closer when you’re old” ― “Beta” Metani’ Marashi

“If I had received good instruction as a child I would be with my family today and at peace with my neighbors. I hope and pray that all you parents in the sound of my voice will train up your children in the way they should go.” ― Charles Portis, True Grit

Good luck in all your endeavours.



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