Encouraging Your Child’s School Success as a Long-Distance Dad

Josh The-DadMile Markers

By Labor Day or the week thereafter nearly every school in the U.S. is back at it. Big yellow school buses lumber along slowing traffic. First-day-of-school photos appear on social media. New shoes and backpacks, supply lists and lunch supplies, athletic equipment and practice schedules—all are part of the memories and activities associated with the beginning of school. At times like these it’s easy for a long-distance dad to feel left out of all the back-to-school drama and excitement.

When you feel overlooked because you are unable to be physically present, you may mistakenly believe your input or interest is unimportant. You might assume what you think doesn’t matter. There are lots of reasons for feeling this way, but your interest is critical to your child’s success. Maybe the “new math” you hear your child is doing is intimidating. You have no idea how to be helpful, especially when you’re rarely at home on evenings when homework is being done. Perhaps you were not a particularly good student yourself. Maybe no one encouraged you. Aren’t mothers supposed to be better at that sort of thing?

Then there’s the social part of school. What if your child has difficulty making new friends? What if your son or daughter failed to make a sports’ team they really wanted to be on? Perhaps he or she is hurting or disappointed in some other way. What then? Several hundred miles and a few states away it’s hard to know what to do.

During the month of September, we will be devoting podcasts and e-newsletters to the ways-the-road dads (and moms) can encourage and support their child in school—academically and relationally. Our focus will be on the kinds of things parents can do to stay engaged with their child even when they’re not sharing the same roof every night. We hope you’ll give us your feedback and feel free to send us your questions.

Avoiding the “How Was Your Day? Fine” Dead End

If you have ever asked this question, particularly to a pre-teen or teen,” Fine” is the response you’ve most likely heard. “Great,” you think, “What am I supposed to do with that? This is what always happens. I just can’t get my kid to talk to me.”

Some kids are wound up like springs at the end of the day and you have to figure out ways to gracefully bring the conversation to a halt. Others require considerably more from their parents to open up. We suggest you try some of the following:

  • What classes or subjects do you have this year? What do you think will be your favorite?
  • How does your day at school start? What comes next? What happens after that?
  • Where do you think you’ll do well in school this year? What might be more difficult?
  • Tell me about your teacher or teachers? What are they like?
  • Tell me about your friends at school. Where do you sit in the classroom? Who sits next to you?
  • What, so far, is the best part of your day?

Of course kids miss their dads, but they often do understand why he needs to be away. Mostly they want to know, “Does my dad think about me? Is he interested in me?” Asking your children some of the questions above not only addresses these concerns, but also helps them you believe their school work and experience are important and the payback on that will last for years to come.

Prime Good Dads is made possible by a partnership between Prime Inc. and Good Dads. For more information or to ask a questions, contact info@gooddads.com.