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How to Help Your Child Succeed in School and in Life
General advice for parents
From Michael Popkin, Ph.D - Building confidence and feelings of worth.
Preparing Your Child for School
Part 1 - Parents: A Child's First Teachers
Preparing Your Child for School
Part 2 - Meaningful Praise and Expectations
What All Children Want Their Parents to Know
A poem about parents and children by Diana and Julia Loomans
A Message for My Child
A poem of a parent's lessons by Patrick Atkinson
If I Had My Child to Raise Again
A poem of experience from Diana Loomans
Take a Moment
A poem about the power of listening by Dr. Denis Waitley
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The Education Center is a counseling and referral center that provides young people with a one-on-one nontraditional form of counseling - life coaching - that helps children and teens find self-confidence, independence and skills needed to succeed in school and life. It's open to all individuals ages 6 -20.
The Center is a place full of warmth, passion and dedication. I think it comes across in interactions with students, parents and in the community. It's very satisfying work to sit down with a kid and help them to realize that where they're at in life is not the end of the world, and that there are a lot of great options and positive experiences waiting for them if they make the effort for themselves.
For the staff and myself, the feeling is indescribable when we witness a turn around in a student's life and hear a 'thank you' from a kid or their parents. There is a chance to make a difference in kids' lives, and that's why we founded the Center.
We enroll any young person who is going through a rough patch in their lives and haven't found anyone who can listen, understand, and who is willing to make the commitment to believe in them and give them a hand to make things better. We enroll children from all walks of life, all ethnic and social backgrounds, from Chicago and the suburbs.
Anybody can attend The Education Center. Parents have to initiate enrollment. Once we do the intake, we generally work for 10 weeks with a child one-on-one, once or twice a week, during evenings and weekends. We work with the young person's whole community - parents, teachers, religious leaders, employers and youth officers - to help each individual create a plan of success.
Typically we have 20 students enrolled for each 10 week period. We're always looking to expand the number of counselors and mentors working with us in order to enroll more young people each year.
We have a sliding fee scale based on the parents income. We never turned away anyone because they couldn't pay. The Scholarship Fund helps those unable to pay. We raise funds throughout the year to help kids get the support and programming they need.
Once kids experience success, you see a great deal of negative behavior disappear. For many of them, school has been a punitive experience. They're left asking, "Why can't I get this? What's wrong with me?" and that leads to other problems.
Our coaching and mentoring programs help kids see what's been giving them a hard time in the first place; their problems belong to them, but so do their solutions. We do this by providing diagnostic testing to determine specific learning problems. We also provide preventative alcohol and drug abuse counseling, academic tutoring and individual and group counseling for kids and their families.
We also provide the opportunity for young people to be mentored by a positive role model in the community to gain real world experience. We've had CEOs showing kids what it takes to make it in business, companies giving kids job training and a chance to advance, and meetings with sports or entertainment personalities to hear how they got to where they're at. Other times, mentoring kids has meant someone committing to spending time with a kid, getting to know what they're all about and exposing the kid to new things. We tailor-make programs that suit where kids are coming from and where they want to go.
I tell parents that we don't lecture, we don't preach, we don't sermonize - but we do listen. We look at the whole picture and tell it like it is to them and to their children. I don't sit across from kids and do the old clinical thing where I say 'what's your problem?' Why would a young person listen to me if I say the same things as mom and dad? We establish a relationship and trust.
Our uniqueness comes in building trust and respect with kids. Once they get here they get to try things they may not normally try, like doing homework and jobs. A lot of these young people are not risk-takers. We get them to feel self-confident in school and in holding down jobs. If you're feeling good about your yourself, you will get better at life.
Mentors help young people see the real-world applications of what they're learning in school, and gives them a sense of their purpose and value in the world. This helps focus a kid's direction in school, provides them with valuable job skills and contacts, as well as help get kids feeling good about themselves through positive interactions.
We utilize resources in the community. Anyone can help, from business people to athletes and politicians. Anyone willing to take the time to talk to children can be trained to be a mentor. Many professionals I've met with over the years had to overcome great adversity to arrive at success. These people don't lecture kids, but they show them by example.
We're always looking for new mentors for kids, from all levels of society with all different types of backgrounds and experiences. Just as kids are all uniquely valuable and talented so too are all mentors. The Center provides training and orientation to make sure a good match is created, and monitors mentorship participants closely. Working together, mentoring is mutually rewarding!
Yes and no. Children and teens are forced to grow up faster today then ever before. There's a far greater pressure on them to succeed and far more serious obstacles for them to overcome... but they're still kids.
Drug abuse is a major difference, but so too is the amount of violence occurring in our society on a daily basis. Community, in many places, is just a foreign concept. Young people too often become isolated and fall prey to negative influences without anyone noticing the problem until it's too late.
Everybody wants to point the finger of blame, but quite frankly, we live in a violent society. I'm talking about a society where violence is almost an acceptable form of behavior. Young people emulate that behavior.
Kids need to feel included in society so they don't feel excluded from the world around them and act out against it. By the time a kid has been drawn into violent behavior many people have misunderstood that kid and also missed the chance to create a positive influence in his or her life.
Parents, teachers and adults need to look and listen. If you're doing all the talking to a young person you're missing the point of what they're saying to you. Obviously, underachieving in school, getting involved in drug and alcohol abuse, or getting on the wrong side of the law are big red flags, but so too are signs of low self-esteem and lack of confidence; these are telltale signs of isolation and insecurity.
Love your children for who they are. Spend time with them. Be supportive and encouraging. Don't be too quick with judgment or advice.
Parents need to love their own kids, but they also need to love their kids' friends. They need to give guidance and support wherever they can. Relationships to kids are as important as location is in real estate.
The Center's approach is one-on-one listening and sharing of advice. Above all, young people need a lot of support and attention, from both parents and teachers. Our approach to each child is different. Parents or teachers can't have just one set of rules or guidelines for dealing with kids. They need to be flexible, open-minded and creative.
I think parents need to turn off the television, put down the smart phone, and get involved in their children's lives. The remote control and social media can't meaningfully educate, instill values, or elevate confidence, but parents can. School needs to feel more like a place where students aren't just passing through for eight hours a day. Kids should feel that school is the center of the community, and that they can express themselves freely, and not get lost in the shuffle.
Since starting in 1979, The Education Center has helped thousands of kids and families all over the greater Chicago area.
Everyone has a responsibility. We do, the parents do, and the kid does. If everyone works in a collaborative effort then we will see results. It makes more sense to give young people the skills they need now, rather than waiting for problems to arise and make it harder for them than it already is. No one is ever beyond help if they want it. Every child can be successful in school and in life.