Navigating the Ups and Downs of the School Year
A few weeks into the school year, kids hit their first fatigue hurdle. Challenges crop up. Everything starts to feel a lot less new and shiny. Teachers are giving a lot of homework. Math is harder. Social circles may be in flux. Friends can all be together in other classes. Auditions and tryouts have come and gone with unexpected results. Here are some ways to help your child maintain positive momentum as the school year clicks into gear.
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The view you have towards school and teachers is going to be mirrored by your children. If you criticize and disrespect teachers and administrators at home, don’t be surprised if your child does the same at school. Are you friendly with teachers? Do you volunteer at the school? Show your child that teachers deserve respect, support and appreciation and that school is a safe and fun place to learn. Attend parent-teacher night, meet your child’s teachers, and make sure they know you are an education ally.
Ask about the day
Don’t lose track of kids’ emotional states. Ask and listen without phones within reach. Don’t sacrifice a daily check-in for a too-hectic schedule. Before or after dinner can be a good time to chat, especially when there are after-school activities and plenty of homework. In fact, the more hectic the schedule, the more important it is to increase family down time. Try to have longer conversations about how school is going on the weekends, while you kick back and relax. Be sure to spend at least a half to a full day each week relaxing.
Make school a good fit
If your child is bored in school, maybe classes are not rigorous enough. On the flip side, if academics are too challenging, your student may constantly be struggling to keep up. Talk to the school counselor to see what options you have for making adjustments. Placement in the proper level classes is crucial for student happiness at school. Don’t let school become a breeze or a punishment.
Check grades regularly
It’s wise to let students keep track of their own progress in school. Touch base with them about grades often enough to help troubleshoot any problems that might crop up. The frequency of chats can vary depending on age and maturity level. Encourage kids to talk to teachers at the first sign of an academic problem. Asking for help from older adults is an important life skill, and self-advocacy is usually rewarded.
Review annual goals
Help your student establish academic goals that serve their vision of the future at the beginning of the school year and re-visit them intermittently as the year progresses. If you sense they are getting off track or distracted, simply say, “What are your goals for the year again?” Briefly chatting about goals can reinvigorate kids to put energy into achieving them. If kids are not keen on their goals, make sure they set their goals and not yours.
Keep social commitments in balance
There are kids who keep their social calendars booked, rarely taking any down time. Try to remember that self-care is taught rather than innate, and don’t allow your child’s hyper-social friends to make them feel like they are constantly missing out. For some kids, having a few close friends and hanging out one-on-one may be better than being part of an extended group.
Kids should be reasonably happy to get out of bed each morning and go to school. The beginning of the school year, the change in season or after the holiday break are good times to get involved in new activities. Having fun activities to look forward to can significantly improve a child’s mood. Getting enough sleep and eating three healthy meals plus snacks are also critical for maintaining a cheerful attitude and good health.
Be alert for bullying
Sometimes aggression between children is so subtle that parents don’t pick up on it. Kids who are being bullied may not realize it, or if they do, they may be ashamed to confide in parents or other adults. When your kids are younger, volunteer at school once in a while and check out the social dynamics. Even children who have known each other for years can suddenly turn on each other, especially if they sense popularity is at stake. With tweens and teens, make sure to regulate screen time, social media use and check devices regularly.
Watch for red flags
If your child has an appropriate schedule but is still showing signs of being disengaged or not wanting to get out of bed in the morning, get some help. If your child is suffering from depression or anxiety, talk to a health care professional. Your pediatrician can ask the right questions and discuss treatment options to get your child back on track. Childhood anxiety and depression continue to be on the rise, especially since the pandemic. Make sure your child is ready for that transition by instilling a positive attitude and encouraging slow and steady momentum that will pay off during the first twelve years of school and beyond.