Better grades and a higher chance of college matriculation are just a few of the benefits for teens when parents are involved in their education. This involvement could be anything from regularly attending parent-teacher conferences to simply asking teens what they learned in school each day.
But educators say most parents aren't doing enough to turn their kids into undergraduates.
Almost 90 percent of educators believe parents are not doing enough to help their children be successful in school, according to a January survey of 2,100 educators by the School Improvement Network.
But parental engagement has to start early in order for it to be effective, says Joseph M. Davis, a business teacher and college readiness coordinator at C. Milton Wright High School in Bel Air, Md.
“Connecting with kids is a difficult task, especially when they become teenagers,” he says. Social media, busy schedules, increased independence and teenage angst can make it difficult for parents to engage in their child’s education.
But if parents start when children are young, teens may have a stronger academic future. “When they know that their parents are involved at an early age, they can expect that they are going to continue to be there,” Davis says.
If students know their parents hold them accountable, they perform better, he says. He suggests frequent communication with teachers and maintaining an open relationship with your children as strategies to help them be successful.
[Learn about what teachers wish parents asked at conferences.]
Encouraging teens to take challenging course work and letting teens know it is OK to fail is also important, he says.
“The parents have to be willing to accept that their kid can fail,” says Davis. “That’s another thing that is really tough on parents: ‘Oh my son got a C in a class and they usually get an A,’ but yet they took an AP class.”
Students will get a better idea of where they are by completing challenging course work, he says.
North Carolina single mother Frances Dawson, whose 16-year-old daughter struggled academically, says she was nervous when her daughter wanted to take an honors world history class. School administrators encouraged her to let her daughter challenge herself.
“I thought she would be setting herself up for failure,” she says.
But her daughter received an A. “I’m having to learn to trust what she can and cannot do,” Dawson says.
[Read about ways for parents to help teens de-stress.]
Kim Kerschen, president of the New Mexico PTA kept close tabs on the older of her two sons. He recently graduated high school – and in the end, appreciated her support.
“I was always at the school. I was the PTA president at his high school,” she says. “But when he graduated he turned to me and said, ‘You know what, Mom, I complained a lot about you being at school and said I hated it and stuff, but I really loved every minute of having you there.'”
She says that in her experience, teens whose parents did not engage in their child’s education often succumbed to peer pressure.
“A lot of times I think about, ‘OK, when I was that age, what did I do?’ Think about how your mind worked at that point. Yeah, I was a little mischievous, I thought about breaking the rules from time to time. Things haven’t changed that much,” she says. “Even though they may complain, kids really do need that guidance.”