As we begin the month of August many families around the United States are either taking their last vacations of the summer or they have just begun the new school year. There is an endless number of tips and strategies to help children and their families have a successful school year. While each year in a child’s academic life is important, each year of their LIVES matters as well. There is one tip in particular I believe helps with a child’s development and that is CONNECTION.
As humans we are hardwired to thrive around human contact. As newborns we begin to interact with one another through facial expressions and body contact. Toddlers learn how to speak for themselves with their primary mode of communication being play. Children beginning school start to make new friends of their liking. These building blocks are all foundations of making connections with others.
Now what does this have to do with doing well in school?
First and foremost, while some may think it would be ideal to have all children earn straight As, it may not realistic for all. I am aware most (including my own parents!) may not like to hear this, BUT Cs or 75s are actually average! Think of a bell curve, or a hill. The middle is the highest point and that is where most students score. Then you have the two extremes, which in this case would be the Fs to the left of the curve and the As to the right of the curve.
We are all born with different talents which leads us to take interest in some areas over others. Interests and talents may lead one child to enjoy solving equations more than writing essays. It may lead another child to succeed in music more than on the field. All areas are important and help shape a child’s life. However, most academic institutions stress academic success as defined by scores on paper-and-pencil assessments.
While academic success is important, we should widen our scope to include social-emotional success as well.
Studies show that students who are involved in a club, organization or sport usually do better in school than those who are not involved in anything. If children are involved and connected to their community or school they have the opportunity to build relationships and feel supported, which are important aspects of life. Now, it is understood that being connected to clubs and organizations does not necessarily guarantee acceptance. However, being involved gives children more opportunities to have those connections than if they just went home to play video games. Children who are involved may experience positive pressures to support others and it may fuel healthy competition amongst peers. These are all important aspects of childhood, and of life. Lastly, children who are connected to clubs, organizations, sports and others are less likely to make poor choices around substance abuse and violence.
As an educator I understand the importance of doing well academically in school. I also understand that helping a child comprehend an academic concept may come with more ease than helping a teenager connect with others. Building connections early will help your child feel supported by their community, which will have a long-lasting impact on their self-confidence and belief in themselves.
In the long run, which is more important to you?
Vanessa De Jesus Guzman is an Educator and a Board Certified Licensed Professional Counselor who has worked with children and families for two decades. Vanessa is the owner and CEO of Free to Be Mindful - a private practice located in Ridgefield, New Jersey.
Vanessa is passionate about helping moms, kids and educators with mindful living, mental health and personal growth through efforts including:
Host of the Free to Be Mindful Podcast which provides bite-sized tips and guided meditations to anyone working with kids
Founder of Amiga Moms, a supportive network for 21st century moms offering educational events founded in mindfulness
Public Speaking and Professional Development for parents, educators and young adults on topics such as mindfulness, building healthy relationships with kids, self care, mental health and more.