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Tips for Setting Realistic Goals for a New School Year

Setting, working toward, and achieving goals give children important skills, such as planning, doing hard work, and managing time. Helping your children set goals can help them stay motivated and productive even during a challenging school year.

Goal-Setting Ideas

  • Have a purpose. Whatever goal your children want to set, ask: “Why do you want that as your goal?” and “Could your goal help other people too?” Having a specific goal with a clear purpose helps motivate your children, especially if their goal could also help others (though it doesn’t need to).
  • Check the challenge. You children’s goals should make them stretch but shouldn’t be impossible to achieve.
  • Cheer them on. If your children want to give up, remind them of their purpose, remind them of their strategies for avoiding obstacles, and praise their effort.
  • Adjust as needed. If you are concerned that your children’s goals are unattainable this school year, offer suggestions of any adjustments that could make their goals more realisitic. Perhaps discussing the difference between long and short-term goals would help them see why adjustments are needed.
  • Break down the goal. Once they have a realisitc, specific goal, have them break that goal into smaller steps, or brainsotrm ideas with them. Offer to be the person they can check in with each time they accomplish something.
  • Be ready for obstacles. Talk with your children about possible obstacles that may come up. Have them think of a few ways they could deal with those obstacles so it won’t stop them from achieving their goal.
  • Cheer them on. If your children want to give up, remind them of their purpose, remind them of their strategies, for avoiding obstacles, and praise their effort.

Self-Efficacy Ideas for Parents

As your children strive to achieve their goals this school year, you can help by enhancing their self-efficacy. Self-efficacy is a belief in one’s own abilities to reach goals. Below are some tips for parents to enhance their children’s self-efficacy.

  • Identify a strength that can help your chlidren in their current situation or to help achieve their goals in the future. For example, “You are a great listener. How can you use that to help your friends who are fighting?”
  • Take the time to think before giving your children honest praise. For example, instead of telling your children, “Good job!” say “I like the way you kept trying and didn’t give up. You must feel so proud!”
  • Give specific praise to show how you were paying attention. For example, instead of saying “You were awesome!,” say, “Your throws were right on target!”

This blog was written by Hope Squad. Hope Squad student members are trained to be aware of their peers and watch for warning signs. They learn to show empathy to their peers, listen without judgment, and reduce stigma regarding help-seeking and mental illness. Hope Squads are now in over 1,200 schools across 35 states and Canada. During the seventeen years since Timpview High School started a Hope Squad, the school has not lost a student to suicide. And as Hope Squad grows, we will continue to spread hope and save more lives. Learn more by visiting