A New School Year: 3 Tips for Dads

Your children just started school or are about to go back, and that should be a big deal in your mind—whether they’re starting kindergarten or the last year of graduate school. They will mature and be shaped in incredible ways during coming months, and of course you can play a major role to help and encourage them.

Your involvement in their education can help set them up for success this year and into the future.

What exactly does that look like, and how can we dads focus our involvement? Here are three ideas that you can consider adding to what you already do:

1. Celebrate your child in some way.

Maybe this could be a one-on-one outing to your child’s favorite ice cream or coffee shop. Just have fun together and find a time to briefly affirm her at this latest milestone she is reaching. Carrying it a step further, maybe you could hand her a written note or card with words of encouragement for the upcoming year—something she can read again and again. Maybe you’ll even want to add a small gift. Whatever you do, find a way to affirm your child and communicate “I’m here for you” during the school year.

2. Share memories from your school days.

Who was your favorite teacher, and why? In which subjects did you excel, and which was a challenge for you? What memories do you have from when you were in your child’s grade? How nervous were you that first day of middle school? Those stories and memories from Dad may help ease some of their worries, and anything good you have to say about what you gained from your school years will convey how valuable education was for you and can also be for them.

3. Commit to be engaged in your kids’ education this year.

You probably expect your child to have good study habits, be cooperative in class, and so on. It’s good for you to step up and do your part as well—even if this is simply a matter of renewing habits you have carried on in the past. A big part of this is being interested and asking lots of questions. Research notes that one of the most significant questions you can ask a child during the learning years—at any age—is,

“Tell me about what happens at school.”

Have him or her describe the events of their school day or course work in as much detail as possible. Ask about favorite teachers, friends, frustrations, challenges and so on. These questions and your genuine interest show that you really care and often lead to deeper conversations. 

Another great way to be involved is to volunteer a day at the school. Get involved through a local program or contact your child’s school to make it happen.

How are you involved in your child’s education, especially at back-to-school time? Share what works for you so other dads can benefit. Just go to our Facebook page.

Action Points & Questions for Reflection and Discussion

  • What’s your general impression about the start of a new school year for your children? Are you optimistic for their year? Relieved to have them out of the house and back in a routine? Something else?
  • For each of your kids, think back over the past year of their lives. How have they changed and grown? Verbally or in writing, affirm each one for something positive you’ve noticed.
  • What is a “successful” school year for each of your kids? (It will probably be different for each one.) Talk through that with them and make sure they know you love them no matter what.
  • What were you like when you were your child’s age? Relive some memories and share some ways you’ve changed for the better since then.
  • What has impressed you or surprised you as you learn more about your child’s school day and the people who are investing in him or her?

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There may be no more important work than turning the hearts of fathers to their children, and that’s what this is all about. We’re seeking to repair, rebuild and restore effective fathering for the benefit of children and families everywhere.