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Helping Your Teen Feel Connected to School

February 3, 2010
Times Observer

As a parent, you want your teen to do well in school. You also want your teen to be healthy and avoid behaviors that are risky or harmful. Through your guidance and support, you can have great influence on your teen’s health and learning. But you also have important allies in this effort – the caring adults in your teen’s school.

Research shows that students who feel a genuine sense of belonging at school are more likely to do well in school, stay in school, and make healthy choices. This sense of belonging is often described as school connectedness. Connected students believe their parents, teachers, school staff, and other students in their school care about them and about how well they are learning.

Why is it important for your teen to feel connected to school? Scientists who study youth health and behavior have learned that strong connections at school can help young people: • Get better grades • Have higher test scores • Stay in school longer • Attend school more regularly

In addition, students who feel connected to their school are less likely to:

• Smoke cigarettes • Drink alcohol • Have sexual intercourse • Carry a weapon or become involved in violence • Be injured from drinking and driving or not wearing seat belts • Have emotional distress or eating disorders • Consider or attempt suicide

What can you do to increase your teen’s connection to school? Here are some actions that you can take, at home and at school, to help your teen become more connected to his or her school:

1. Encourage your child to talk openly with you, teachers, counselors, and other school staff about his or her ideas, needs, and worries.

2. Find out what the school expects your teen to learn and how your teen should behave in school by talking to teachers and staff, attending school meetings, and reading information the school sends home. Then, support these expectations at home.

3. Help your teen with homework, and teach your teen how to use his or her time well. Make sure your teen has the tools – books, supplies, a quiet place to work – he or she needs to do homework at home, at the library, or at an afterschool program.

4. Encourage your teen to help adults at home, at school, and in the community, such as helping with chores, serving as a library aide, volunteering at a hospital or clinic, or tutoring younger students after school. 5. Read school newsletters, attend parent-teacher-student conferences, and check out the school’s Web site to learn what is going on at the school. Encourage your teen to participate in school activities.

6. Meet regularly with your teen’s teachers to discuss his or her grades, behavior, and accomplishments.

7. Ask teachers if your teen can participate in or lead parent-teacher conferences.

8. As your schedule allows, help in your teen’s classroom, attend afterschool events, or participate in a school committee, such as a health team or parent organization. Ask whether your school offers babysitting or transportation for parents who need it.

9. Offer to share important aspects of your culture with your teen’s class.

10. If your first language is not English, ask for materials that are translated into the language you speak at home, and ask for interpreters to help you at school events.

11. Learn whether community organizations provide dental services, health screenings, child care, or health promotion programs at school. If not, advocate having those services

offered at your school or in your school district.

12. Get involved with your teen’s school to help plan school policies and school-wide activities.

13. Ask whether your school or school district provides – or could offer – programs or classes to help you work better with your teen and with the adults at school.

14. Talk with teachers and school staff to suggest simple changes that can make the school a more pleasant and welcoming place. For example, the school might decorate the eating area with student-made posters, allow families to use the school gym or other facilities during out-of-school times, or create a place in the school or on school grounds for kids and families to socialize.

For more information, visit

Sources: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion. Division of Adolescent and School Health

Forbes is the Business and Community Liaison at Cassadaga Job Corps Academy. She has an AAS in Nursing from Jamestown Community College and a BS in Human Services and Community with a concentration in women and family issues from SUNY Empire State College. She lives in Jamestown and is the mother of an adult son and grandmother of three. or her web page at

Article Photos

Janet Forbes



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