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By: Whitney Fleming of Your Teen Mag

For Melissa Alvis, a mom of three living in Glen Ellyn, Illinois, winter break couldn’t come soon enough for her or her sixth-grade son.

“Middle school has been challenging for us. There is a lot more homework, school activities, and social distractions. It’s tough to find a good balance,” she says.

While her son’s grades are strong enough to keep him on the honor roll, there were many arguments about homework and procrastinating on projects, causing Alvis to worry about how her son will manage as his coursework increases in difficulty.

According to Alvis, “We got through the first two quarters, but it wasn’t pretty. I don’t want to be the mom who has to nag his kid every night, but that is the direction we’re headed.”

The new year can be a perfect time for parents to regroup and help their students get on track to finish strong—and gain healthy habits they can take for the rest of their life.

1. Family meeting.

“Make sure your child understands that as a family, you are putting school first,” says Danielle Maldo, a middle school teacher in the Chicago, Illinois suburbs. “That means everyone will support his efforts and habits but does not mean doing the work for him.” Tests, quizzes and projects should go on a family calendar so that students have enough time to complete them around other commitments. Siblings should be respectful of designated study time, and distractions should be kept to a minimum. Establishing a homework routine is often key to a student’s success.

2. Check supplies.

It’s hard to do your best work when you don’t have the right tools. Go through your student’s supply list and ensure they have everything they need to succeed. Help them clean out their backpack, and make this a weekly task moving forward. If your child uses a planner, check to see how your child is tracking coursework—and if needed, set a time to look at it each evening. Your child should be writing down assignments for each class and placing an x in slots where he does not have anything due.

3. Set goals.

Goals are a great way to keep students motivated and on-task towards the end of a school year. Set one or two small goals to accomplish before the end of the semester. It can be anything from maintaining a certain grade point average to minimizing late assignments. Make sure to reward behavior as your student progresses.

4. Look outside the box.

In the case of Alvis, the more she tried to help her son organize his school work, the more combative their relationship became. This is where an outside service provider, such as Sylvan Learning Center, can help. Through a study skills program, students will learn time management, organizational skills, active reading and note-taking strategies, efficient research methods, and test-taking tips. Parents can remain actively involved in their child’s education while the student becomes increasingly independent—a win-win.

5. Make it fun.

Incorporate online learning tools, such as Quizlet, into your child’s routine. Help your student make flashcards a few days in advance of an exam and test them on the material whenever convenient. Better yet, have them test you in the car on the way to practice or another activity to reinforce what they are studying.

6. Talk it out.

If possible, help your student recognize the relevance of what they’re learning and why it’s significant through ongoing conversations. They’ll never be interested in what they’re learning if you’re not. It’s not about you nagging or checking up on them to see if they’re paying attention in class, but instead, taking an active interest in their education.

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