Parental involvement in education pays dividends for life


Rani Urbanski, guidance counselor at Ralph Williams Elementary School, shares tips for parents to help in the New Year. George White

Parental involvement plays a crucial role in education, but it is not something that happens on its own. Busy parents need to carve out time for the good of their kids, according to Ralph Williams Elementary School guidance counselor Rani Urbanski, formerly a teacher.

“It’s my first year as guidance counselor. It’s my first year out of the classroom. I decided to get my master’s degree in guidance counseling. I wanted to see what kind of opportunities were outside the classroom. I wanted to see how else I could help kids and families,’’
she said.

Her tips to strengthen the parent-student bond in the New Year:

Ask open-ended questions specific to their school day and classroom happenings. What was your favorite part of the day? Who did you play with? What reading centers did you work in today? What exciting or new thing did you learn today? What books did your teacher read to you? Who was a good friend to you today? Who did you help today?

Time spent with your child outside the educational setting is important as well, in terms of relationship building, trust and creating conversation. The skills will be vital as the child grows and starts making decisions on their own, Urbanski said.

Examples of quality time spent together can include:

  • Have your child sort laundry, making up a story about a “laundry monster” who causes mismatches.
  • While eating dinner, ask your teen a question to stretch his/her imagination, such as “If you were the smartest person on Earth, what would you use your intelligence to do?
  • Have your child pick out three low-sugar snacks (less than 10 grams) during a grocery run.
  • When driving in the car, ask your younger child to find the letters of the alphabet in signs you pass. With the teens, ask them to help you calculate how many miles per gallon you are getting with each car you drive.
  • At the ATM or bank, help your child determine how long it would take to save $2,000 if you saved $5 each week in a bank account. Ask your child what they would do with the money.
  • While shooting hoops or playing cards, ask questions like “How did recess go today” or “How was your science test?”
  • When making a salad for dinner, let your child choose the ingredients.

“It’s a matter of being involved in your children’s everyday lives, because you have a big impact on their decision-making skills,” Urbanski said. “Parents are moral compasses. You want to know that you’ve made an impact so that, when you’re not there telling them, that they still hear that little voice and remember what you’ve taught them.’’