The New Year is fast approaching. Many of us will make all kinds of well-intentioned improvements. This is also an opportunity to encourage our children to make some resolutions of their own.
Academic resolutions can be a good start for many school-aged children. Similar to other New Year pledges, an academic resolution is aimed at dealing with areas that need improvement. And just like those other resolutions, now is always the best time to start.
Sylvan Learning, the leading provider of tutoring services to children of all ages and skill levels, offers parents and families the following tips to kick-start a successful New Year:
Work as a family. Develop the goals together, encourage your child to involve a trusted teacher or friend, but remember the goals are ultimately his. Talk over general ideas – an improved algebra grade, better study habits, making sports editor for the school paper – and help him set priorities, but let him make the final decisions. Setting his own goals increases his motivation and self-sufficiency.
Keep the goals simple, clear, and easy to understand. For young children, short-term goals are the best because they’re, well, short and result in higher rates of achievement. Daily goals are the best – “What shall we do today in the park?” “What book shall we check out of the library?” Older students in late elementary and middle school can be introduced to longer-term goals. This teaches planning.
Set up helpful routines. Give your children the consistency of fairly regular routines (weekends and holidays can be breaks). Bedtime, wake-up, study, homework, play, family time–children rely on these routines, and the structure helps them to feel safe, to know what’s expected of them, and to be successful.
Help them organize. Organized students do better in school. Help them to set up their planners (written or electronic; it doesn’t matter), to keep their notebooks and backpacks neat and orderly, to break up large assignments into smaller ones so they don’t seem overwhelming, to maintain a work space at home that’s actually workable and not a disaster area, and to stick to the goals you’ve set together.
Maintain healthy habits. Healthy students are better learners. Help your children by monitoring their screen-time (TV, video games, cell phones, etc.), making sure they’re getting enough sleep, insisting on their good eating habits, making sure they’re involved in regular and aerobic exercise, and sticking to those goals and routines you’ve established.
Be a good role model. Children learn from parents. If they see that you’re organized, focused on what’s important to you and your family, staying healthy, and being true to your values, they’ll pick up some pretty important life lessons. Stay positive and diligent – they’ll test your patience often. When you or your family slips a little, pick yourself up and start over with renewed determination. That’s an important lesson in itself.
Don’t give up. Academic resolutions are every bit as important – maybe more so – than social or personal ones. Let your children know that you’re serious about these goals and that their school success is as critical to you as it is to them.
Get help early if you need it. When your children show that they’re having trouble despite your best efforts, get help early. Ask a teacher or guidance counselor for help. Get a tutor. Find a “study buddy” for your child. Just get help now, before the little problem grows into a big one.
Wishing you and your child a successful academic New Year!