by Stephanie Collier, Project Coordinator, Casa Grande Alliance

Parents hope that their children will do well in school and go on to be happy, successful adults. However, there are specific things that parents can do that have been shown to make a difference in their children’s school success. Here are tips from our Strong Families Program, which uses an evidence-based curriculum that has been proven to have a positive effect on school success, as well as reducing youth substance abuse and increasing positive family functioning: 1

Identify a specific time and place for homework. Having a quiet, distraction-free study area with supplies handy helps to focus on homework, and having a regular study time helps establish a routine. Routines help children focus their attention and energy and minimize parents’ need to remind their child to do their homework. Consider making the study area a phone-free zone.

Check their homework and praise their efforts. It’s a good idea to check regularly to make sure homework is completed and your child demonstrates an understanding of the lesson. A child who knows they are being monitored is more likely to exhibit good behavior. Checking homework can help identify any areas in which your child is struggling and needs additional help and also provides an opportunity to praise your child for his or her efforts. Verbal praise and recognition has been shown to encourage children to keep up the good work. 

Let your child be involved in after-school activities. While some parents see extracurricular activities as a reward for doing well in school, letting your child get involved in a school-based activity that they enjoy can actually be a motivator. Many school activities like sports or band require good grades and citizenship for participation. It won’t be just you concerned about your youth’s success in school – their coaches and activity sponsors will be talking to them about it and monitoring their progress also!

Besides these tips, another thing that parents can do to improve the odds of their children’s success in school is to have regular talks with them about the dangers of drugs and underage drinking. Since the average age of first substance use in Pinal County is age 13, parents can start building resiliency in their children by having these talks early and often.2 While it’s never too early to start having these conversations, what you say will need to grow and mature right along with your child.

A simple message that drugs are bad for you is effective for younger children. However, at the age of 9, your child is ready for conversations that include why drugs are bad for you; what harm they can do to a person’s body and brain. During the preteen and teen years, youth are becoming more independent in their thinking and establishing their own identities. While you may not think they’re listening, and they probably won’t act like it’s “cool” to talk about the dangers of drugs and underage drinking, studies reveal that 55.8 percent of kids in Pinal County did not use drugs because they thought it is harmful and 55.1 percent said it was because their parents disapproved. 2

How do you get these conversations started? A news story or a song on the radio could provide an opportunity to start talking. Be sure to listen for what your child has to say about it, too. Invite them to ask questions. Don’t worry if you don’t have all the answers – it’s better to tell them that you don’t know, but you can both find the answers and learn about it together.

For more information about substance abuse prevention or our Strong Families Program, a free program for youth ages 10-14 and their parents, visit the Casa Grande Alliance website at or call 520-836-5022.

1 The Casa Grande Alliance uses Iowa State University’s Strengthening Families 10-14 curriculum. 

2 Arizona Criminal Justice Commission, 2016 Arizona Youth Survey, Pinal County