August 21, 2013

So, It’s Back to School: Happy Parent’s Day? ~ Tawny Sanabria

Are you really ready for school to start?

Typically everyone is ready to get back to school by the end of the summer—kids and parents, alike.

I think we crave a structure and routine to a degree, and although we love the more restful and playful days of summer, we enjoy a schedule of sorts—to have a plan in the upcoming days and to know what the days will look like. It helps a lot of us stay on track and get things done.

As back to school approaches, I already know that I will miss the ease of summer, the lazier days, the warm sunshine and moments of rest that do not typically happen during the very busy school year.

For me, back to school means back to routine, structure and yes, back to “busy-ness.”

Most parents that I talk to want their kids to have the most opportunities, and best chances of success in school, but they don’t always know how to help with that. It is definitely a balancing act—too much overdoing by parents, and on the other end of the spectrum—not enough guidance and support can lead to under functioning of teens and pre-teens  And, ultimately this can lead to less opportunities for confidence building. So, how do we help to build confidence in our kids where school is concerned?

School is their world during the school year, anything that happens there can be very important to them on all kinds of levels. Social, academics, identity building, communication skills—you name it, they are learning how to be at school. How we participate in this world is important to all that is developing within them.

So, “back to school” requires some differences in our jobs as parents, if we are interested in helping our kids develop confidence that will be with them as they make very important decisions as they approach adulthood.

Here are a few of my thoughts about how we can do this.

1. Stay involved and establish a structure and routine.

Bed time, homework area in the home, before school routine—all need some consideration. Less stress and chaos make for smoother days for everyone. The more prepared, the less stress. The less distractions, the more productivity. Kids who have the TV on in the mornings, for example, typically have more difficulties getting everything ready on time to get out the door before the last second hits.

2. Please refrain from talking poorly about your student’s teacher(s) in front of them.

I see this way too often. In our efforts to “protect” and support our kids, we inadvertently undermine the authority structure that our kids live in. I hear teens, especially, tell me that they are not interested in doing their school work, in part, because their teacher doesn’t know anything, (that is the nice way of saying it).  And they “shouldn’t have to learn from someone who knows nothing.” This kind of attitude only leads to self-sabotage, which is not a confidence builder as we all know.

3. Help and guide your students with their projects and schoolwork. Don’t do it for them.

This is about helping them to build confidence, if they never do difficult and time-consuming activities without a ton of help from us, they don’t gain confidence in themselves. Instead, they gain confidence that WE can do it for them. And, we already know that, right?

4. Be excited about their learning, but try not to be the teacher.

Let the teacher set the tone, and work to support that tone. Enjoy being the parent. You’ve set the structure, and the expectations. Listen and ask questions when they talk about what they learned. Try not to correct them as they are sharing, it really doesn’t matter if they remembered every little part of the teaching accurately—what matters is that they are excited and you are listening. Foster this curiosity by asking questions, not with correction.

5. Teach them to be independent and responsible in their learning.

Most school districts have online access to your student’s grade book, so you can see if they having missing assignments and how they are doing. Teach your teens to use this regularly so they always know where they are at with their progress, which teaches them to be informed about their own lives. Try not to use this tool as a punishment where you have the access to “check up” on them. Use it with them and teach them to “own” it. Direct them directly to their teacher when they has a dispute or concern.

6. Advocate for them in their learning.

Sometimes our students need special accommodations in their learning. Don’t be afraid to advocate for your student as needed. Request a individualized learning plan if you suspect that your child or teen needs it to be successful. The intent is not to get out of work that the majority of other students are required to do. We are all different, and we can celebrate our differences in how our minds work and how we learn and process information.

7. Have clear expectations and communicate them clearly.

Sometimes parents wait until they see problem behavior, such as poor grades, social concerns, or poor study habits, before they begin to talk about them. Have a success plan that you and your kids can follow. Kids generally want to please and they love praise, so be sure to highlight successes and have a plan to support difficulties.

The goal is to create an environment where our kids grow with awareness, strength, and confidence in their world. We as their parents can do our part to make sure that this is happening for them.

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Ed: Catherine Monkman

(photo: via Pinterest)

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