Before School Starts
One or two weeks before the start of school, have some one-on-one time with each child. Discuss the upcoming year. Do a lot more listening than speaking– you want to hear their concerns and allay them. For younger students, parents might need to set expectations for homework time and grades. For teens, it might be time to let your child set realistic expectations about their classes, grades, and extra-curriculars. Then agree on a schedule or routine to make it happen that includes sufficient sleep, full meals, and time for relaxation.
Week 1: Focus on a good adjustment.
For younger kids, do they have the seat that will enable them to focus? Are they comfortable speaking to their teacher? Do they need help facilitating friendships? For older students, are they in each of the right subject classes? Is the overall schedule manageable yet appropriately challenging?
Week 2: Keep them organized.
Do they have all the notebooks and folders they need? Do they have a good approach to manage assignments and not lose papers? Is the homework routine working? These are the essentials of success, and kids might not volunteer or even realize when they are having trouble.
Week 3: Get that first good grade.
Usually this is the time of the first test or big assignment. Do they know how to study efficiently? If not, help them. Minimize other stressors and make sure they sleep and eat well. A good first grade can establish a positive mindset and set the foundation for a great semester.
Week 4: Take time to reflect. Inquire about those first grades. If they did well, offer positive feedback about how they approached their studying and reinforce the need to keep following that successful strategy. If it didn’t meet expectations, discuss why. Start by commenting on what you noticed they did well. Ask what they think didn’t work. Help them identify what they can do differently.
Week 5: Check-in.
Are things still going well? Are there agreed upon changes based on Week 4 discussions. Provide the encouragement and supports they need.
Week 6: Step In or Step Back.
If things are going well, let them do their thing. They’ve got this. Just check in once a week or so to see if they need your help.
Alternatively, if your child is struggling, it might be time to take a more pro-active role. Yes, you want them to take responsibility, but they’re still kids. Sometimes they need your help. So if you’re going to speak to someone at school or hire a tutor, get the information you need and get moving: test scores, homework grades, comparisons to previous years, etc. Week 7 or 8 is probably parent-teacher conferences so you want to be prepared for the discussions you will need to have.
These general guidelines should effectively balance responsibility and achievement. Of course, if your child has an IEP, 504 Plan, or struggled in previous years you should plan to meet with teachers the first week of school. If you see signs of anxiety, not wanting to go to school, or excessive or too little time on homework, you might need to jump in sooner. Productive struggle is great but there are times when your children need your help, whether or not they ask for it. It’s your job to know when.
You got this!
Does the impending school year create a sense of dread in your family. A little help with self-awareness and organization skills can make a BIG difference.