Five ways you can help your child do well at school

Almost every parent wants the best for their child. But knowing what’s the best approach to take to help them achieve their potential isn’t always easy – especially if your child is struggling in school.

If your child is struggling to cope with a specific subject, or just generally, you can tutor them yourself or use online tutorial services like Cluey Learning.

But what else can you do to help? Here are five ways you can support your child at school, and help them make the most of their abilities, whatever they may be.

1) Attend parent and teacher meetings

If you teacher has serious concerns about your child’s performance in any subject, they’ll usually contact you directly. But to keep abreast of their general performance (and emotional wellbeing) at school, it’s important to try to attend parent and teacher meetings.

During the meeting, your child’s teacher will give you honest feedback about how they’re doing in each of their subjects, and any areas they may benefit from extra help.

It’s also your opportunity to voice any concerns, so you can either be reassured or agree an action plan to tackle them, and ask any questions about the syllabus in general, or your child in particular.

2) Don’t spoon feed your child answers

When you can see that your child is struggling with a particular piece of homework, it’s tempting to just spoon feed them the answer. But fight this urge. Instead, encourage your child to approach the question from another perspective perhaps, and try and work out the answer by themselves.

If they have got it wrong, you can also ask them to explain their reasoning or working out, and point out where they may have veered off course.

If you give them the answer directly, or give them too much help in working it out, they’re less likely to retain the lesson. They’ll also be unable to replicate the exercise again. It also trains them to give up more quickly when faced with tough questions or situations on future, rather than learning resilience and battling on.

And if your child genuinely doesn’t know the answer to a question, their teacher needs to know so they can explain again so they do grasp it fully. By answering for them, you’re only masking this gap in their knowledge and not giving them the opportunity to fill it.

Problem solving isn’t just a skill they need in school, either. By encouraging your child to find their own answers to problems, you’re teaching them invaluable life skills. So whatever career path they choose (they can search a potential career path on Upskilled), they’ll be better prepared to excel in it.

3) Make it easy for your child to study

As your child grows older, their study needs will increase – as will their need for support and encouragement from you.

At a very basic level, you need to ensure they have a designated space to study. This may be a desk in their bedroom, or a corner of a table in a quiet room. You also need to ensure they allow enough time every day for study, and can do so without distraction.

Getting into routines is a good habit to encourage. So perhaps after school they have a drink and a snack, before completing any homework or revision.

It’s also important to positively encourage them to study, rather than turn it into a punishment. So try not to make studying sound like a chore. And while you may feel frustrated at your child’s lack of enthusiasm or effort, try not to lose your temper and turn homework into a battleground they learn to dread.

4) Write down any instructions or reminders

If your child has learning difficulties or is struggling with a particularly hard subject, it can help to write down instructions for them to follow and remember. This way you can also avoid becoming frustrated by repeating the same instructions over and over, or being perceived by your child as nagging.

With written explanations or instructions, your child can refer to them whenever they need, without having to ask you again – perhaps feeling bad that they haven’t remembered, or like they’re bothering you.

5) Ensure your child is school ready every day

It’s hard to perform at your best if you’re unwell or tired. So make sure that your child is physically and mentally ready for school with a healthy diet, enough exercise and a good night’s sleep.

Here’s a quick guideline to how much sleep children need:

  • Children under teenage years need at least ten to twelve hours of sleep each night.
  • Teenage children need least eight to ten hours of sleep every night.

This is also where routines come into play. Going to sleep and waking at the same time every day help your child’s body clock to get into a healthy rhythm. And leaving for school every day on a nutritious breakfast will mean they have enough energy to see them through the morning.

Also consider how much screen time you want your child to have, and set clear boundaries around that. Eating together as a family in the evenings is also shown to have a positive impact on a child’s performance at school.

Remember what it’s like to be a child!

When it feels tough trying to motivate your child (and most parents experience this at some point – if not regularly), try to remember what it was like when you were their age.

How did you feel about school or homework? Which subjects did you struggle with? What kind of support was the most helpful for you? Or would you have liked but didn’t get?

Every child has their own individual struggles and motivations, and as a parent it’s our job to encourage and support them in any way we can to find their own drive, and perform at their best ability, whatever that may be.

Photo by Mike Fox