With the return of the new school year, young students all across Utah County are hitting the books once more. A very common question I receive this time of year, “How do I help my child be successful in school?” I must admit if I had the perfect answer I would have likely published a New York Times Bestselling book by now and be on a lecture tour, but with that said – while every child is unique there are some things that tend to be true for all children.
Getting children ready for school starts even in the first years of life. In all the research that has been done on getting children ready for learning, the number one thing a parent can do is read with their child. I think that it is interesting that in this day and age with all of the movies, video games, and apps that are available, reading and talking with your child has the greatest effect on verbal development and school readiness. It is also important that a child sees their parents, mother, father and meaningful adults in their life read as well, as a child’s natural tendency is to model the behavior they see.
In older children, it is often important to help them develop good study habits. Things a parent can do is set aside a place in the home where a child can do their homework with minimal disruption. A consistent workspace has been shown to help decrease distractions and thus improve learning and information retention. Along with this, it is important to schedule enough time for homework and study. This is something for you and your child to consider as you pick which after school activities to participate in.
When it comes to such things as TV, smartphones, and computers it is important to know that once a person is distracted it generally takes 15 minutes and sometimes longer before they are fully re-engaged in what they were doing before. So taking time to silence phones and other distractions will make study time more efficient. Along these lines, it is important for parents to monitor internet use, for while there is wonderful and mind-expanding information to be found there, it can also be a place where unexpected dangers exist.
One topic that is often overlooked is the need for adequate sleep. It is during sleep that information we have received during the day is processed and transferred from our short term memory to long term storage. Lack of sleep is associated with lower academic achievement in middle school, high school, and college as well as higher rates of missing school altogether. In most teenagers (13-18 years of age) recommended amount of sleep is generally between 8-10 hours; in younger children, it tends to be about 1-2 hours more.
When academic struggles do occur, I encourage speaking with teachers early, as they often have the best insight into what is going on and can offer immediate recommendations that may help a child succeed. If your child continues to struggle despite your best efforts or you have concerns that your child is having learning or focusing difficulties, please contact us at Canyon View Pediatrics. We are ready to offer any assistance that we can.
If you would like to read additional tips from the American Academy of Pediatrics about going back to school, please click here.