Happy New (School) Year!
The new school year is upon us. As a mom or dad with school-age kids, there are many extra “to-do’s” that appear on your list as you’re preparing for the big day; new clothes, new supplies, shoes that fit, haircuts, fall sports sign-ups or tryouts, etc. The kids need so many new items and it often feels there’s hardly time to take care of it all. I’ve been there and completely relate!
As you are well aware, being a parent is one of the toughest jobs you’ll ever do! Not only do you have to think about all these tangible things, but you have to take care of your child’s emotional and academic needs as well.
As a mom, while I dreaded the “Back to School” shopping, that was really the easiest part, since the list was already made and I just needed to check it off. The other parts that didn’t come with an already-made checklist were the most overwhelming. So I created a couple of “cheat sheets” for you to refer to as you prepare to enter a new school year.
SOCIAL-EMOTIONAL CHEAT SHEET
While you’re managing your own feelings as the school year approaches, remember that children are full of feelings they may not know how to manage themselves, too. For example, they may have “worries” about teachers and friends. It can be especially scary when they are attending a new school. Of course, always listen to your child’s concerns – truly listen. Validate the reasons they feel that way. Let them know it’s perfectly normal to feel nervous, excited, eager, and a bit uneasy when going into a new situation. Then, reassure them that you have confidence in their abilities. They will cope and before long they’ll feel comfortable in their new class/school. If they still feel uneasy after several days, ask questions about what’s going on at school. There might be some bigger challenges there that you can help them resolve so they can stay focused on their learning.
And we can’t forget that we also have academic concerns and questions on our mind. Will my child do better this year? How can I help them succeed in school? If you’re thinking these things, then your kid probably is as well. Help them focus on their strengths as learners so that they can use those strengths to help them with their areas of improvement. Remind them that this is a fresh, new year and they can use their mindset to be the learner they know, and you know, they can be. Check out our article on developing a Growth Mindset for more information.
ROUTINES CHEAT SHEET
Before school starts, sit down for a “family meeting” with your kids and get their input about daily routines. Planning ahead can save headaches later on. When children know what to do and know their expectations, it’s easier for them to succeed. It’s not about having a strict unmalleable plan, it’s about decreasing stress through preparation. Plan out the routines that fit your household and lifestyle. This might include morning routines, afternoon routines, and bedtime routines. Talk about alarm time, breakfast, clothes, homework, backpacks, the time to leave the house, and method of transportation. Make checklists for each routine and post them where they can be seen. Instead of having to tell your child each step, every morning… all you have to say is, “Check the board.”
Include yourselves, as parents, in making your own routines. It never ceases to amaze me how helpful a checklist can be, especially on those mornings when we happen to get up late.
Implement and adjust the routines
A routine is a guideline, nothing more and nothing less. It works for you when you implement it. If you don’t implement, then it won’t work. So… follow the plan! Practice it for few days and then, if it needs to be adjusted, go ahead and adjust it because it is important to actually follow whatever plan you have set. You can always tweak it again until you arrive at the routine you can faithfully follow.
SCHOOLWORK CHEAT SHEET
Set aside a “Homework Space and Time”
With your child’s participation, set up a homework space and time. In this space, your child can complete their homework, study, or read. Having a set time daily to complete homework provides your child an easier and faster way to get this task accomplished. You might even assist your child in composing a checklist which they can review each day, so that something important is never missed. This checklist could include: 1) reviewing their learning for the day, 2) completing assignments, and/or 3) working on a long-term project. It’s a great habit to go into this space daily to review upcoming assignments and commitments, even when there is nothing due the very next day.
Let your child “struggle” (some)
Not all learning comes quickly and easily. Sometimes it takes review and work before the light bulb goes on. Too often it’s easy to give up! Encourage your child to persist. Remind them of other things that they’ve learned, only because they kept practicing. Watching a baby learn to walk or eat with a spoon can remind them that they were exactly the same before they practiced that skill. The current challenge will become easier with practice.
Monitor your child’s progress
One of the things your child will HATE ( but you have to do anyway) is monitor their grades. There are many ways to keep track of your child’s grades on a weekly basis so there are fewer surprises at the end of the grading period. I checked my son’s grades twice a week on the school-parent gradebook site. I could see when daily assignments were missing or if a test score was low. That provided a perfect opportunity to have a discussion. Also, it gave me a chance to recognize his hard work when I saw an excellent grade. (He wasn’t about to tell me about this either.)
SUPPORTING YOUR STUDENT CHEAT SHEET
Don’t postpone getting help when your child really needs it
Realize that sometimes your child needs some extra assistance through no fault of their own. In our mobile society, many students change schools, school systems, or even different states and this causes them to miss content. Or maybe, your child was home sick with the flu when fractions were taught. Filling that “gap” with a tutor can do wonders to help your child get back on track.
Work together with the teacher(s) and school
When you have to make the trip up to school…
Start with finding something good to say. It can be about anything, as long as it’s genuine.
Show appreciation for the work the school does. This establishes a non-adversarial collaboration. Work with the school rather than against them.
Be as objective about your own child as you can be. Our children are so precious to us that as parents we sometimes can’t see them objectively. Every human being makes mistakes, and our children are not the exception.
Ask questions about your child’s behavior. “What does Johnny do in class? Where does Johnny sit? Does Johnny seem distracted by his friends? Is there a time or subject where Johnny is very engaged in the learning?” The school sees your child in a different setting than you do, so you’re gathering information. Listen and realize they’re telling you what they perceive. Even when you hear something that makes you uncomfortable, remind yourself that the teacher wants the best for your kid, too.
Ask how you can help your child. Show willingness to work with the school. Ask about easy ways to communicate, so you can assist the teacher in helping your child learn. When you want a particular thing to happen… Ask if it can happen, rather than tell them to make it happen… Ask the reasons if something can’t be done.
Be patient. Remember that your child is not the only child in the class or in the school. Ask the teacher when they will be able to do something like, “When will you be able to email me about Johnny’s missing assignments?” Then, follow up to make sure the commitment is fulfilled. Similarly, be sure to uphold the commitments you make to the teacher – if you say you will check the backpack and binder daily, be sure to add that to your routine.
Thank the teacher for their time. Tell the teacher that they can call you anytime. Develop this into a win-win relationship and your child will be the beneficiary.
So, it’s time to go back to school. While life is hectic, and you seem to be always running, see which of these strategies you can implement to make your own life more sane and your child more successful. You have to take care of yourself in order to take care of your child.
If you are feeling overwhelmed, or you believe your child could benefit from the help of an academic coach and tutor, visit us at www.nobelcoaching.com to set that up.
Written by Nancy Marrufo