By Eleanor Harrison, PhD
School attendance is something I never thought about as a parent. My children went to school most days unless one of them was sick. My friends sometimes kept their kids home for “free” days or went on long vacations during the school year. When I took a job with a school district as a support to the truancy program, I learned a number of things about school attendance that I thought I would share with you.
Attendance Habits Start in Kindergarten
Studies have shown a direct correlation between attendance in kindergarten and future school failure. Surprised? I was. Parents who enroll their children in kindergarten and then fail to make school a priority are already beginning to create habits and expectations. Children soon learn that school is negotiable and not something that is a requirement. There are things you can do to let your child know that school is a priority, in effect your child’s “job.”
Make school a topic of conversation in your home. Talk about the importance of showing up to school every day. Don’t excuse your child from school unless he/she is truly sick. Students often complain about headaches or stomachaches and ask to stay home from school. This is often more a sign of anxiety than an actual illness. School counselors can’t help students manage their anxiety unless they are at school.
Stay on top of your child’s attendance by accessing your school’s online student information portal regularly. If you don’t know how to do this, call the school. They can help you get your password and tell you how to log in. Check your child’s grades and assignments along with attendance.
Manage the Electronics
Finally, help your child get a good night’s sleep. Teenagers tend to stay up late and get up late. They need parents to help establish routines for bedtime. Encourage them to turn off screens, TV, and phones at least an hour before bedtime. Kids who are playing video games, watching TV, and/or texting before bedtime often have difficulty falling asleep because the blue light of the screen tells the brain that it’s daytime. When they don’t get enough sleep, of course, they have difficulty getting up in the morning. Maybe the TV or game console needs to come out of your child’s room.
Students who attend school every day graduate! Help your child/teen maintain good attendance and before long you’ll be taking pictures of your child at graduation.
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Eleanor Harrison is a psychologist at The Labyrinth Institute specializing in therapy and assessment for children and teens. You can reach her at 303-514-9780 or firstname.lastname@example.org.