Family – The Key to Unlocking Student Success

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A growing number of studies have documented the impact of parenting and family factors on a variety of educational issues that impact the lives of teenagers. Factors such as greater parent involvement, more parent support, less harsh discipline, and less hostility between parents and teens all have been associated with higher grade point average and with more positive changes in this academic performance indicator over time.

While increasing numbers of professionals who work with teenagers on school-based concerns are becoming more family-focused in their work, fortunately there is also a growing reality that family members can help themselves to become a greater resource to their teenage sons and daughters. This perspective, based on research evidence and the results of work with families in prevention and intervention programs, holds that the best results usually happen when family members understand that they know more about their family than anyone else. Even further, the more that family members pay attention to their strengths, the better equipped they will be to deal with all of the challenges that life is presenting to them at any given time.

The Russian writer Leo Tolstoy begins his novel Anna Karenina by stating that "Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way." Much can be said about the strengths inside of these happy families. There are some very common themes that make families resilient. These five facts about strong families include:

  1. Strong families have a shared positive identity about themselves
  2. Strong families understand their members' talents and abilities
  3. Strong families are patient and kind
  4. Strong families are able to find and use resources
  5. Strong families can work together

These facts about strong families can be applied directly in ways that can help teenagers reach their full academic potential. Based on the first fact, parents and teens can work to create their family's own unique definition of what it means to be a successful student. The second fact can be used to identify things that already are going right in school for the teenager, as well as what the parents already are doing to support their son or daughter's academic achievements.

The third fact lays the groundwork for parents and teens to identify actions to be taken by all family members that can support further educational gains. The fourth fact recognizes that it takes both a family and a village to raise a teenager successfully, and therefore underscores the need to identify present and new resources to encourage greater school success. Finally, the fifth fact can help families to use a solution-focused perspective when family members become stuck on some school issue, concern, or event.

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