As school bells prepare to ring across Warrren and Van Buren counties, it’s a good time for parents to consider what they might do to help their children have a successful school year.
Bryan Herriman, director of CHEER Mental Health Center, an agency of Volunteer Behavioral Health Care, said there are a number of options parents may pursue to ensure their child stays on a road to success during the school year, despite issues that could detour their progress.
Herriman said the decisions a child may make at this stage in his or her life can many times have a lasting impact.
“Parents,” he said, “need to be mindful of this.”
He encouraged parents to know their child’s friends, their habits, where they spend time outside of school, and what they do for recreation or entertainment.
Parents need to be watchful for changes in behavior, periods of depression, frequent mood swings, periods of withdrawal, a variance in sleep habits and other signs that may signal excessive peer pressure, bullying, relationship issues, drug use, or other mental health concerns.
“It’s important,” Herriman said, “to recognize these issues early and to seek professional help.”
Volunteer Behavioral Health Care offers the following tips:
• Set back-to-school sleep schedules to help get school routines back in order. Have and enforce regular sleep schedules for school days and weekends that ensure adequate sleep.
• Encourage activities that take place after school (community volunteering, tutoring, athletics) to keep your kids active.
• Encourage reading. Less TV, computer time, computer games.
• Try to show your kids how to plan and organize. Show them the importance of scheduling time for study, recreation, and time with friends and other activities. Teach them to know what is most important and to organize their to-do lists with priorities in mind. A good tool for this could be a calendar or scheduler.
• Have an understanding about limiting time to be spent watching TV, playing screen games, chatting on the internet, or talking and texting on the cellphone.
• Reserve time for family. Have specific times for family conversations on a regular basis.
• Encourage a healthy diet and frequent exercise.
• Visit your child’s school. Meet with teachers. Ask what you might do to better prepare your child for his or her school work. Let the teacher know you are available and accessible if there is something you should know about your child’s progress in school. Provide your cellphone number and email address.
• Don’t be timid to know what your child’s school assignments and homework are. Show you’re interested in their work. Ask for detail and explanations about what they’re studying.
• Dedicate an area in your home that is reserved for homework and study where there won’t be interference with TV or distractions.
• Set good, attainable, reasonable goals. Goals could include hours dedicated to studying each day, a specific number of books to read, or an academic GPA.
• Have a reward system when goals are met, a trip to a favorite college game, a special dinner or dessert, etc.
• Always be positive and encouraging. Let them know you have confidence in them.