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Why Feeling ‘Connected’ to School Keeps Teens from Using Drugs and Alcohol – And How Parents Can Promote School Connectedness

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Parents play an enormous role in keeping teen children safe from drug and alcohol abuse, but teen children are also tremendously influenced by their peers, and by other concerned adults in their lives.

Since school aged teens spend much of their time in school, it’s not surprising then that educators, school culture and school ‘effectiveness’ also have significant influence on a teen’s likelihood to get into trouble.

In fact, students who describe themselves as ‘connected’ to their schools, are not only less likely to abuse drugs and alcohol, smoke cigarettes, become violent or become sexually active at an early age - they’re also more likely to stay in school for longer and get better grades while they’re there! They are also at reduced risk of experiencing a mood disorder or an eating disorder.1

Parents and home life play central role in child rearing, but schools also clearly matter – and since school connectedness is so important, it’s worth considering a few techniques that are proven to enhance this sense of connection between your children and their school.

What Is School Connectedness?

Children who experience school connectedness believe that peers and adults at school care about their happiness and success in school and in life.

How Can Parents Enhance The Feeling of School Connectedness?

According to the CDC, some steps parents can take to enhance the likelihood a child or teen feels connected with their school include:

  • Be an involved parent at school.
  • Make sure to read all information that comes home and attend school and PTA meetings whenever possible.
  • Talk to teachers at your school and try to find out what your child should be doing and learning – and then help your child at home to keep them up to date with their work
  • Help your child with his or her homework – and make sure that he or she has the tools needed to succeed such as school supplies and a quiet space at home that’s conducive to work and study
  • Learn the rules and expectation of the school and make sure your child follows these rules
  • If your first language is not English, make sure that the school translates all information for you, or that you have access to another readily available source for translations,
  • Talk frequently, even informally, with your child’s teachers, to find out how things are going in the classroom on an everyday basis
  • If you can, volunteer your time at the school, helping to improve the overall quality of the educational experience as you also stay connected with the school and with your children.
  • Encourage your child to feel free to tell you and other concerned adults at and beyond school about problems and challenges faced within the school
  • Encourage your son or daughter to get fully involved in extracurricular activities at the school – and if you can, support these activities with your own presence, or expertise, such as through coaching or mentoring.2

By making sure your child is capable and up to date with work and living up to expectations at school you put your teen in a great position for academic success; and by staying informed with school goings-on and getting involved if you can and encouraging participation in extracurricular activities, you help your child get the most benefit out of the community that is every school – and the more connected they get and feel, the less likely they are to get into serious trouble!

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Page last updated Feb 28, 2011

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