Back to School
The long, slow days of summer are winding down as September comes into view. Back to school clothing sales are in high gear as kids get ready to start a new school year. Children who are starting to get antsy with summer’s lack of structure start looking forward to the predictability and consistency that school provides. It’s getting to be that time once again.
What can parents do to get started on the right foot?
1. Review the previous year.
Consider your child’s experience from last year. What subjects did he do well in? What were her struggles? How did she get along with peers? How did your family approach these challenges? What strategies worked well and which ones did you ditch? As parents, what did you learn about your youngster from his experience in the previous grade?
Reflecting on the previous year enables you to think ahead to the coming year. What problems are likely to rear their ugly head? If Joey had trouble getting up on time last year, it’s not likely he is going to become a morning person this year! If Sarah had trouble buckling down to do her homework in 8th grade, expect a repeat for 9th grade. Most of the problems from the year before don’t disappear in the next grade. Sometimes their problems grow in size as they get bigger.
2. Establish goals and an action plan for the coming year.
As you reflect on last year, establish goals and an action plan with your youngster for the coming year. Don’t listen to their pleas that everything will be different this year! The road to misery is paved with good intentions—but good intentions are not enough. A clear plan of action is required to ensure the likelihood of success. Establish two or three goals that you would like your youngster to address this fall. Getting up on time, going to sleep earlier (lack of sleep is a HUGE problem for teenagers), a set homework time, a place to do homework, guidelines about cell phone use, computer games, and television, regular reading times, after school activities, curfew on weekends, weekday bedtimes, etc.
Sit down with your child and engage them in this discussion. Make goal setting collaboration between you and your child.
3. Be proactive.
It’s always better to think about approaches to concerns before they happen. In middle school you can bet that your kiddo is going to have social challenges—friends come and go like the weather in Washington. Prepare your child for this experience, so when it happens it won’t be so unexpected. For example, consider how to create social opportunities for children that may be shy.
4. Review goals and expectations frequently.
Revisit your goals, expectations, and action plan frequently in the beginning of the school year. Changes and adjustments will have to be made as your child encounters both old and new challenges. It is always better to be ahead of these issues. Once a student gets too far off track, it is more difficult to get back on task.
5. Less is more.
School can be demanding for kids, especially when the bar goes up in 3rd, 7th, 9th, and 11th grades! While we want our children to be well-rounded, we don’t want them worn down with too many activities and involvements. And, if you are running around all creation to bring them here and there, you will get stressed too! So limit activities and consider how the whole plan will work together.
And finally...Nourish a healthy attitude towards learning rather than simply rewarding performance. Learning and doing well can go hand in hand. Too much emphasis on grades can create stress and interfere with real intellectual curiosity and creativity.