Back to School Series: Setting Up for Success

A new school year is a landscape of opportunity.  Much like a New Year’s resolution, parents and children alike make promises for the new school year, such as zero late slips, fewer detentions, and reduced battles over homework.  The first few weeks of school, the “honeymoon” period, consists of teachers, students and parents putting their best face forward, reviewing the content from the previous school year.  But as the newness wares off, families become frustrated when they find themselves in the same battle as the year before.  This school year, maybe things really can be different!

While a child’s cognitive abilities, or IQ, is considered to be relatively stable over time, there are key strategies that a family can implement to help a child increase their success within school.  Much of this involves communication and collaboration.  While a child should be taught early that they are responsible for their own success and failures in school, (Forgot to do the science project until the night before?  There is a natural consequence for that, and it does not involve Dad staying up all night plastering cut outs on a poster board) communication between parents and teachers can often help bridge a gap.  If a child is struggling in a certain subject, their behavior may be considered disruptive, as they “goof off” to avoid the challenge that math or writing may offer.  Having a parent and a teacher share these observations can re-frame these difficulties not as a behavior challenge, but as a learning challenge.  Parents can also help communicate if family or home dynamics may be interfering with a child’s school presence.  A new baby crying all night doesn’t just keep up parents, but also big sister or big brother, and may be why a child is particularly sleepy after lunch.

Consistency is also critical for a child’s success.  While after school activities and routines may change day to day, having a set “homework” time, a set “snack” time, and a set “break” time can help prevent late night struggles to complete tasks and homework.  Having a consistent wake up time – even on the weekends or during school breaks, can help reduce some of the early morning grumpiness and rushing around.  If there are multiple caregivers or co-parents, communication between caregivers is important, as consistency can have a spillover effect not just on school success but on emotional and behavioral regulation as well.

It is also important to remember that mistakes are learning opportunities, and there are very few actual failures that occur in childhood.  Helping a child with their mindset including identifying their strengths, what motivates them, and what help and resources they need can help prevent the cycle of frustration and perceived failure that leads to a difficult school year.  Patience is also important, recognizing that a child does not have the benefit of an adult’s life experience, and may make the same mistakes multiple times (but never should that end with a parent doing the homework for the child!).  Allowing a child to make a mistake helps them learn, faster – even though it can make a parent cringe to see the natural consequences at work.

We want everyone to have a happy, safe, productive school year.  Feel free to reach out to us for help in setting up this next school year for success.  We can help!