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The Short Version: Fostering emotional growth, developing character, and constructing an educational foundation for children has never been an easy job for parents, but today’s world of social media and texting have made the task a bit more challenging. For nearly 20 years, GreatSchools has been providing parents the information they need to help their children reach their full potential. Housing an extensive database of more than 138,000 public, private, and charter schools in the US, GreatSchools offers valuable resources that empower parents to make informed decisions about their children’s education. The organization also understands that development isn’t all about hitting the books. Drawing from science-based research and a pool of knowledgeable experts, GreatSchools aims to give parents the tools and advice they need to build a child’s emotional smarts, especially when it comes to the issues modern teens face when dating and forming relationships in the digital age.
It may seem like a no brainer that parents directly influence their children’s success. But, as a study by Duke University shows, there’s science to back the claim. Children with higher levels of parental involvement have increased aspirations. And the more knowledgeable parents are about higher learning, the more likely it is their children will pursue college.
However, children don’t just need parental guidance when it comes to educational pursuits — they also need parents to nurture their emotional intelligence. Research shows that children will have difficulty regulating feelings and forming relationships without direct parental investment at an early age to help them understand how to bond with others.
Parenting has always been a difficult task, and the digital age brings with it a host of new challenges, including cyberbullying, sexting, and filtering age-appropriate content, when raising teens and tweens. Thankfully, the nonprofit organization GreatSchools operates with a mission to provide parents with the information they need to open up educational opportunities that speak to both academic and emotional development.
“We are best known for giving parents information about choosing the best schools and information on the 138,000 public, private, and charter schools in the nation,” said Carol Lloyd, Executive Editor at GreatSchools. “In addition to providing educational information for almost 20 years, we’ve also been dishing out evidence-based parenting advice for the past decade.”
Whether parents are seeking guidance on the best schools in their area or are looking for help with modern issues affecting their teenagers, the vast storehouse of resources at GreatSchools can help them build the best futures for their children.
While GreatSchools is best known for its educational advice, the organization puts particular emphasis on parenting the whole child and not just making sure children are up to speed academically.
GreatSchools recognizes that not everyone has the financial resources to send their kids to private school or move to a different school district so they can attend a higher-rated public institution. Because of this, the organization operates with a philosophy that promotes universal access to education.
“We have a real-life approach when it comes to education,” Carol said. “We understand the challenges low-income and underserved families face, which is why we focus on helping them find educational opportunities.”
GreatSchools maintains a large collection of articles and resources to help all families give their children every possible advantage. This arms parents with the tools to raise knowledgeable and resourceful children.
In his essay “The Purpose of Education,” Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. noted, “the function of education is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically. Intelligence plus character — that is the goal of true education.” It’s this same marriage of academic and character development that GreatSchools strives to help parents give to their children.
Using the organization’s Cue Cards, parents can learn how to take negative behavior and transform it into a character-building exercise. For example, children start experimenting with dishonesty at a young age. This is sometimes done to escape consequences or gauge reactions to fibs.
To find out how to positively deal with this behavior and turn it into a learning moment, parents simply choose the option “My child denies doing things to avoid getting in trouble” from the Cue Cards drop-down list. From there, the site provides several strategies parents can employ to connect honesty to their value sets and encourage conversations. The advice, tips, and strategies are in-depth and realistic.
GreatSchools also includes a section that focuses on character development. Here, celebrities, like Oprah Winfrey, talk about why building character is so important. The organization also provides resources from institutions, such as the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence, which offer families tools to help foster individual growth in their kids. The section also includes activities, like the Feeling Words Game, which shows other kids describing a specific feeling and asks children to guess the emotion from what they are saying.
Tweens and teens aren’t the easiest people to influence and connect with, which is why GreatSchools houses tons of advice on its site to help parents navigate this challenging time in their child’s life. The years just before and after puberty begins are tough on children, as it’s a time when they’re becoming interested in forming relationships and dating but are also receiving confusing messages about body image and sexuality from their peers.
If your child is entering this period and is starting to talk about dating or relationships, GreatSchools has dozens of articles to help parents begin the discussion. One such piece is “Drinking, Drugs, and… Middle School Dating,” which explains the risks in letting a child date at an early age, an explanation of what middle school dating even is, and multiple options for dealing with it.
“Been Caught Sexting” deals with the pervasive trend of very young kids sending highly sexual messages to each other. The author dives into the reasons for it, what it means to this generation, and ways to solve the problem. No doubt, this is a great read before talking to your child about what may be happening on his or her phone.
Body image is also a huge topic among teens — as their bodies undergo changes and they receive mixed messages from society, peers, and the media about how a body should look. As one in five American children is diagnosed as obese, it’s also the conversation five out of five parents don’t want to have with their children.
It’s difficult to talk to a child with a weight problem without putting his or her health at risk or making them feel bad. The article “Weighty Issues: The Big Problem No Parent Wants to Discuss” goes into depth about the statistics, causes, and strategies to work on achieving a healthy weight and warns parents about what not to do when helping their child achieve and maintain a healthy weight.
On the flipside, “Hall of Mirrors: My Daughter’s Battle With Anorexia” shows the struggle and eventual success in overcoming an eating disorder that plagues many kids, female and male, today. This inspiring story also talks about the signs the author missed and how she and her daughter made it through together.
“The articles on our site are invaluable to help parents understand how to approach difficult issues with their children,” Carol said. “For example, parents — mothers especially — should not talk about their weight or if they’re on a diet. It’s one of those little things we take for granted that can have huge impacts on children’s lives.”
She also mentioned the evidence-based studies noting how parents should avoid remarking both positively and negatively on the weight and appearance of others because children pick up these messages and internalize them during these formative years.
Both science and common sense tell us parents can have dramatic impacts on the academic and emotional growth of their children, and GreatSchools provides a comprehensive tool set to empower parents to proactively work toward their kids’ success in life.
“Our goal is to be the go-to place to help parents raise their children in terms of education and parenting,” Carol said.
GreatSchools is currently in the process of launching a new initiative to continue meeting that goal with its high school grade-by-grade monthly newsletter. Parents who sign up simply indicate what high school level their child is in, and each month they receive a newsletter tailored for that grade level.
“Some of it is helping them prepare their kids for college,” Carol said. “But a lot of it is parenting teens and giving them advice on the best ways to raise their child at this particular moment.”
With resources like this, GreatSchools is helping parents not only find the right schools for their children but is also empowering them to rear well-adjusted, emotionally intelligent kids.