Originally published on Savvy Auntie.
HealthDay News reported on a new longitudinal study that found teenagers who are “engaged” in school have a reduced risk for behavioral problems, substance abuse, and dropping out. University of Pittsburgh and Connecticut researchers suggest that giving teens a supportive learning environment and providing educational opportunities is key to sustaining them emotionally, making them feel competent and independent while promoting the skills and values to help them successfully transition into adulthood.
As some evidence points to an increasing disinterest in education with the progression through high school, keeping students “engaged” through academic activities may give them a sense of connection to their school and help motivate them to continue learning.
The research included about 1,300 youths, grades 7-11, from 23 public schools in a socioeconomically and ethnically diverse county of the eastern United States: 58 percent were African American, 36 percent European American, and 6 percent identified as biracial or an ethnic minority. Over a period of seven years, the teens were asked to complete surveys on certain topics, including behavior, school engagement, relationships with parents and teachers, and general demographics (Child Development press release, July 2013).
According to study leader and assistant professor in education at the University of Pittsburgh Ming-Te Wang:
Youths who are engaged with school feel more academically competent, are more connected to the institution, and elicit more positive reactions from their teachers and parents. In contrast, disengaged youths have more academic difficulties, receive less positive support from their teachers, and are more likely to associate with disengaged peers. The study also suggests that early behavioral and emotional engagement in school can buffer against participation in problem behavior. […] Educational interventions for students that aim to improve school engagement may decrease delinquency and substance use, and prevent adolescents from dropping out of high school.
How Can Auntie Help Beyond the Classroom?
1. Spend some time after school to talk and catch up.
Understand that stress and other personal issues, such as family problems, can affect your niece’s or nephew’s performance in school. Helping them deal with non-school-related issues like peer pressure and bullying can make it easier for teens to focus more on their studies during school hours.
2. Make learning fun outside of school.
Find educational opportunities whenever you spend time with the kids. Participate in fun and engaging activities around your area, especially if they are related to what your nieces and nephews currently study. This can motivate them to learn more about the subjects when they return to the classroom.
3. Make it interesting by telling stories about your own educational experiences.
A great way to connect with nieces and nephews and encourage them to continue learning is to talk about your own high school experiences. If your niece is having trouble with geometry or your nephew is struggling through physics, recount some of the academic challenges you encountered in the past and how you overcame them. Inspire them to face new obstacles and never stop trying to succeed!