[MUSIC] Welcome to another edition of Positive Parenting.

I'm your host Luke Spiegelhoff, therapist and parent educator.

Positive Parenting is a show for parents to help them with the sometimes difficult job of raising children in today's world.

Today we're going to be talking about a subject that's gonna be very near and dear to many parents' hearts very soon and that's the back to school.

And with back to school, we want to know as parents, how do we help them be more successful? As always, we bring in experts to help us with this topic and we brought in tonight, Kathy Olson.

Welcome Kathy.

Kathy: Welcome, thank you.

Kathy is the program director for the Partnering for School Success in the Center for Family Development for the University of Minnesota Extension.

We welcome you, Kathy.

So this is a great time of year, right? You can those cash registers ringing up those back to school sales and kids and parents are already thinking about this.

Maybe talk a little bit just about the role of parents, how critical is it for them to be involved in their child's educational success.

Kathy: Well, it's extremely critical and parents are really the first teachers that children have, and um that's very important and their children are learning even way before they go to school.

They've been watching their parents and you know, parroting after them and doing things that their parents are doing, so it's very important and parents are a real important partner in the school for their children to successful.

Luke: I'm sure the research backs that up to, just about the difference when a parent's not involved versus when a parent is.

Do you have anything you can share about that? Kathy: Well, we do have a lot of research on our website that backs all of that up and backs up our resources and yes, the child does much better when their parent is engaged in the school.

And a true partnership with the school experience and it's one of the few things that does not cost a lot either.

It's just training parents and schools how to work better together.

Luke: Now I know as a child grows, usually the parental involvement changes.

Usually elementary school, very involved, volunteering a lot.

Middle school — much less.

And you experience that.

And into high school — very rarely, although typically then it's more in the context of clubs or sports where parents are more actively involved.

Maybe talk a little bit about how that changes over time and is that necessarily a good thing? Kathy: Well it's a natural occurrence certainly and it is much easier for parents to know how to be involved when their child is younger.

Kids love it when their parents are involved and that makes it easy too.

And you're right — you get to middle school and the children start saying, "Don't come to my dance, don't volunteer to be a chaperone please!" And uh it's a hard time for parents, too.

And kids are going through those transitions in school and they're not real sure on how to act either but they probably, despite what they're saying, do want their parents to be somewhat involved.

Maybe not chaperoning their dance, but there are other ways that they can be involved and even talking about school at home and maybe not being at school as much but talking about school more when they are at home.

They might need more assistance with homework and setting that structure at home and providing a place for homework and the tools for homework and that's all a part of the support that parents can provide too.

It isn't only volunteering and of course it is important for parents to be at school and be at the drama events and the sports events and things going on at school.

But many times it's more of an observer.

When they get to the high school point, that's very important too.

To just be there and kids want their parents to be there and they know if they're there or not.

It's not always possible for some parents to be there, some may have a couple jobs or their schedule doesn't allow, but you can certainly talk with kids about how things went and be interested and be involved that way, too.

Luke: I know you've identified six factors in a child's life that help them be more successful at school.

Maybe talk about those six factors and maybe what's part of those.

Kathy: Okay, and these factors overlap quite a bit, too.

But Sandra Christenson, who's with the University of Minnesota School of Psychology, has identified these six factors through research that she has done through the years and the first one is expectations.

Just letting kids know what expectations there are of them at school.

Both for what they can achieve as a goal in school and for behavior.

And teachers also need to let parents know and kids know what they expect of them too in school.

So it goes again, both ways.

Structure is very important and I referred to that just a minute ago too about having a place for homework, having pencils, papers, crayons, calculator, things like that that children need in order to do their schoolwork.

Having good nutritious meals, having enough sleep, having a time to do homework, not only a place.

Those kinds of things are a part of structure.

Learning is another factor and that almost goes without saying with school you would think but what children learn in school is very important, but what they learn outside of school is also very important and we'd like parents to be more intentional about what children are learning at home, whether it be through chores, through allowances, through going to the grocery store.

And then things in the community such as the library, going to the park, and there's just walking out in nature you can learn things.

So parents don't always think about that, that kids are learning all the time, not just when they go to school.

And uh- We'd like them to be a little bit more intentional about even family conversations can be a very good learning environment.

Also support, just being there for kids.

Being an advocate for them, if needed.

And sometimes it's needed, sometimes not and sometimes you might need to be quite the advocate and insist on certain things that they- services that they might need at school.

Relationships — children learn best when they feel safe and they feel loved both at home and at school.

Again, that there's no bullying at school, no violence at school or on the way to and from school, too.

It can certainly happen there.

And that they have a safe place at home as well.

Luke: And I think maybe even just to build on that point even just the relationship between the parent and the teacher, parent and the school, you know, is an important piece in that too, so it's not just the child relationship that they're having.

Kathy: That relationship is very important and that the school respects the relationship that the parent and child has as well as the relationship that the teacher has at school with that child and that they're talking together and that it's a respectful relationship.

Also, modeling.

Just setting an example is so important and one of our specialists who trained us very well in parenting education said, "There's three important things to remember in parenting: the first one is example, the second one is example, and the third one is example.

" And I've never forgotten that because that is so true.

Children are watching us all the time as parents.

And so how we handle problems, how we talk to a teacher or a coach or a person who is checking us out at the grocery store.

Our children are watching us.

Luke: Maybe talk a little bit about then how do these factors evolve over time.

I mean, certainly how you're going to address those topics are gonna look very different at the elementary level versus the secondary level.

Maybe just talk a little bit about just what a parent can expect over that time frame.

Kathy: Well, each of the factors probably has variations on that, but I can give a few examples.

Just the relationship with your children, we talked a little bit about that earlier how that changes through elementary all the way to high school and how that relationship also changes as, you know, with school and teachers and certainly when parents- when kids have one teacher, it's much easier to have a relationship with a teacher than in high school where they might have six or seven teachers and maybe a couple different coaches and it's many more relationships to have and much more to keep track of for the parent.

Even keeping track of your child schedule sometimes is- is difficult.

What their classes are much less what their schedule might be for extra curricular activities.

So uh there's just- it gets very complex.

Luke: Yes, yes.

So, I love the beginning of the school year because if you could bottle all the hope that is in that at least day before if not the first day of school.

That would be awesome.

Because often times kids expect- and they always say this and I deal sometimes with at-risk kids and it is you know the hope at the beginning of the year that it's going to be different than last year.

Kathy: A new start.

Luke: Yeah, exactly, a new start.

Talk a little bit about what parents can do to set their kids up, you know, maybe along those lines of expectations, but maybe also helping to foster the child's own goals or own hopes of whatever the school year would be.

How can a parent maybe do that, at the beginning of the school year to help them with that.

Kathy: Well, attitude is critical and as we mentioned before the kids pick up on their parents' attitude too.

So that's number one, that the parent is excited about it too and that excitement transfers to the child.

Getting things ready — just the whole structure of it — by buying things for school that's needed.

You know, getting that list and finding out, you know just the excitement of buying new pencils and tablets and things like that is good.

And good preparation and not looking at that as, "Oh we gotta go buy more things," but, "This is exciting and this is a new start.

" And stopping by to meet the teacher, going to open house.

Just having a fun attitude and traditions and rituals around that too.

I know, you know, take a picture before the first day of school and getting on the bus or starting walking or whatever and just the excitement that the parent has transfers to the child, no matter what age.

Luke: Don't get to close as a middle schooler cause they'll go, "What're you doing? Get away!" Kathy: Yeah, we had to take the photo a little farther away.

It was embarrassing, but we did do it all the way through.

Luke: Well good.

Well please, stay tuned.

We'll be right back with Kathy Olson talking more about how to help set up your child for a successful school year.

We'll be right back.

[MUSIC] Luke Spiegelhoff: Welcome back to Positive Parenting.

Before our break, we were talking with Kathy Olson and we're talking about how to help kids be more successful during the upcoming school year.

So welcome back, Kathy.

Kathy Olson: Thank you.

Kathy, on break we just talking about some of the cultural differences that maybe come up between different ethnicities- that type of thing.

And maybe talk a little bit about how that difference perhaps between different cultures on how to help- help their kids be more successful.

Kathy: Sure, we have a couple projects that we're working with- with Latino families and one thing that we have found is that- is uh relatively new immigrants, they look at school a little bit differently than we typically have through the years.

And uh school where they came from perhaps everything was taken care of by the school.

They just sent their kids to school and the school took care of everything and they didn't have parent involvement like we are used to.

Having parents being quite involved and expectations of going to school for parent teacher conferences and sports and extra curricular activities and all of that.

And- We need to communicate with them that that is an expectation in the U.

S.

and schools would like parents to be involved and come to school and check homework and you might have to sign for homework and some things like that.

And of course language can be a huge barrier as well.

And um, you know- Schools sometimes will say when we've worked with schools, "Well, we translated all our forms, so we're good, right?" And you go, "Well, it takes a little bit more than that.

" Some of the different cultures that are here are more of an oral culture or families may not be able to read things in the translated language anyway.

Even if you translate a form, it may need to go over that with parents verbally and sit with them and fill out the form or they may not know there even is a form or what the form is for if they can't read their own language.

Um, there's a lot of issues that we don't always think about that we take for granted and schools are doing things how they've always done it and may not be thinking about, "We need to do things a little bit differently with this new population that's in our school.

" Luke: You're alluding to this in your statement, but I wanna talk a little bit about the role of the school in this process and maybe what they can do to help kids be more successful kinda out of the gate.

So maybe talk a little bit more about that.

Kathy: Well, I think since we're starting school shortly here it's fall, just having open houses and inviting parents to come to school and getting them to be at school is really important and course that's easier to do when the kids are smaller.

A lot of parents kinda fall off doing that when it gets to middle and high school.

But it is really important and those changes in school systems — or going from elementary to middle school and then middle school to high school — are very critical for kids and it's important to have their parents there with them and interested in that and understand what the changes are and how that works and still meet their teachers and still know who they are and it's- it's really important too to have that relationship with the teacher or the homeroom teacher or whoever before there is a problem.

I can't stress that enough.

Going to open houses or meeting teachers early on in the year is very important for that because you don't just wanna have that interaction when there is a big issue that comes up.

Or you find out your child is failing.

You want to get ahead of the game and do prevention if at all possible.

Luke: And many schools obviously have other resources, online resources, things that- parent portals or whatever they're called.

Kathy: Websites, portals- you know, the technology has really changed that a lot and there can be a lot more access electronically, which is good, but we still need to remember there's a human factor and there's, you know- a good way to make a relationship is actually meeting them in person, if at all possible.

Luke: So I know you were starting to talk about some of these different ideas, but it's a brand new school year, right, parents are hoping their kids will be more successful, and maybe if you could go a little deeper and maybe give some suggestions about what can parents do to help their kids as- particularly maybe as they get a little deeper in the school year.

I know as a therapist, we always can tell when the first grading period comes up.

Usually that's around MEA break, mid-October is when the first grades come out.

All of a sudden — boop! – you know, our referrals go up because all of sudden parents go, "What? There's all these problems in school and we didn't know about it?" So maybe talk a little bit about- particularly as parents get a little deeper into the school year, what can they do.

Kathy: Well again, hopefully they know before that report card comes out and they find that out.

You know, checking assignments- we talked about the portals are available where assignments are there and you can check if they're turned in or not.

As kids get older, they don't always get upfront about some of that too much or you may not realize, "Well, they've done the assignments, but they never turned it in.

" I hear parents talk about that too, so- You wanna check if that's happening or not and not have a surprise by waiting for the first parent-teacher conference.

You know, go to parent-teacher conference even though your child isn't in middle or high school.

It still matters and you should still go.

Hopefully schools on the other hand allow some time for parents to ask some questions at parent- teacher conference.

I've been to parent-teacher conferences where everything was very structured and there was absolutely no time to ask a question as a parent.

And I think it's important for schools to allow enough flexibility for that to happen too.

Luke: I wonder if you could talk a little bit about that transition.

This is an age old dilemma of when do parents almost hand the — I don't wanna say "hand the reigns over" — but allow the child to be more responsible for their homework, their- Particularly as kids get into high school, that line between when a parent should be involved and when they need to back off and allow the child to sink or swim so to speak regarding their work.

Kathy: Well for one thing, you know, modeling that good problem-solving skill is important and a way that you can transition that is as an elementary student, you probably would go in and talk to the teacher on behalf of your child or perhaps with your child still.

As they get into middle and high school, talking with the child about how they can talk with a teacher about a problem with math that they are not understanding or a grade, or maybe they didn't turn in a paper and they need to talk about it.

Talking with a child on how to approach the teacher, how to talk about that, so they can do that themself and the parent doesn't do it for the child is really giving them some good problem-solving skills, talking them through it so they know how to do it themselves.

Maybe the first couple times, you're there with the child, but you don't say anything.

You let the child and teacher talk about it and then transition to hopefully in high school, they can deal with that on their own and then kind of report back and talk about it and get some feedback from the parent.

You know, back at home.

We don't want them to be going to college and the parent feels they have to go and intervene! And I heard of that happening too, but- Luke: I have well.

But it's all part of learning those life skills and learning how to approach a problem or if, you know, you need to fess up that you messed up and make it right.

They'll learn how to do that as well.

Luke: I would imagine too that certainly in some of the families that we work with there are many children being raised by a non mother and father, so to speak.

So it might be extended family, grandparents, aunts, uncles.

But I would imagine that the principles are still the same, that whoever that main caregiver is needs to kind of assume responsibility in helping the child be successful at school.

Kathy: That's right, that can get difficult for schools to know who- who is the contact person or who do they need to talk to, you know about issues and sometimes that, you know, may be three or four people.

So that has changed, I think, somewhat.

Schools need to be aware of that too and parents need to be aware of the fact that that's difficult for, for schools to deal with too and sometimes the communication might go to the wrong parent or the wrong caregiver.

Luke: I know — and this was a tip that I came across not too long ago, but it made so much sense to me — I know, and I appreciate this as a parent, you know, when my daughter — she's now in high school — her math started to go above my head probably in middle school, and- but there was some research out there about just a parent being in the same room with a child who's studying, how much more on task and how much more they comprehend when that's the case, versus when they're in a different room, when they're separate from the parent.

So I took some solace in- if I could just be around my child when they're studying, if I can help that way, just to be present and available and even though I may not be directly interacting with that that can make some difference.

Kathy: Or finding someone who can help them if they do have questions or having the child ask the teacher if, you know, "Is there tutoring available?" Or is there time on a planning hour that the teacher could help or another student that could help.

And it is very- That's part of modeling actually is- um I really believe in- When the children are doing homework, you know, parents shouldn't be watching their favorite TV show.

Maybe even the child can hear it in the same room! Have the screens off and the um- a place for homework and, you know, parents have their own homework too.

They might be doing some actual work at home or they might be paying bills or maybe they're reading, but they're modeling that it's their time to learn something or work on something too, not just for the kids.

It's kind of the kids' job, is to go to school and the parents job is to be there for them.

And with other cultures, even if you maybe can't help them with homework because of a language barrier, you can still be reading your own things or looking at a magazine or doing something productive while the kids are doing homework.

Luke: Do you have any quick references of where parents can go for either websites, books, maybe the U Extension website, wherever you might direct them.

Where would be some good places to look? Kathy: They can go to our website and it's extension.

Umn.

Edu and click on "Family" and then "School Success.

" We have lots of resources both for parents and for schools on how they can- more effective parent-teacher conferences for schools and for parents, and I believe in the children going to the parent-teacher conferences too and hearing the discussion, so.

Lots of good fact sheets and things that they can look at there.

Luke: Well, thank you so much Kathy for sharing your expertise and here's to a good school year for all the kids that are out there.

Kathy: Yes and it's very exciting time of year.

Luke: And thank you for joining us on today's show.

If you have questions about today's show or suggestions for future shows, please do not hesitate to contact us.

You can do so at postiveparenting@townsquare.

Tv.

Thanks and we'll see you again real soon.

[MUSIC].