The start of a new school year is an exciting time for kids of all ages, and it provides a great opportunity to establish good habits and routines. Try these ideas to make it a successful year for learning.
1. Build a Good Relationship with the Teacher
Communicate your child’s strengths and needs to your child’s teacher clearly and respectfully. Most teachers will do as much as possible to accommodate each child’s individuals needs, and it helps if they understand those needs from the start.
“Match make” between your child and her teacher. This is especially helpful when a child/teacher relationship is strained. Share positive “gossip” between them. For example, if your child mentioned she really enjoyed an activity the teacher did that day, email the teacher what your child said. If the teacher shares with you that Sally was a good friend that day to another child, tell Sally how much Mrs. Smith appreciated her being a friend to Jane. Talk them up to each other, and you will help positive mutual feelings grow.
Volunteer in your child’s classroom(s) when possible. You’ll get to better understand how the classroom operates, meet some of your child’s friends (and perhaps children your child clashes with) and gain the appreciation of the teacher. You’ll also be showing your child that she is important to you.
If your child isn’t progressing as expected, it could be she is struggling to learn because of ADHD, anxiety, sensory processing disorder, a learning disability or even bullying. Seek to understand the why behind your child’s behavior so you know how to help. Also consider cognitive testing. (We provide thorough testing for ADHD and have been successful at recommending accommodations for an IEP [Individual Education Plan] and 504 plan with school districts.) Cognitive testing goes a long way toward encouraging school officials to make accommodations for your child’s IEP.
2. Set up Good Routines
Printed schedules of morning and/or afternoon routines work for some children; offer small rewards if your child completes her schedule in a timely manner. Create larger incentives your child can earn after several weeks.
Don’t expect perfection. Use the 80% rule. Be happy if your child follows the schedule 80% of the time or so (or whatever is a good benchmark for your child). Show appreciation for your child’s efforts. It doesn’t have to be gushing praise, but be sure to acknowledge your child’s efforts. It’s not always easy being a kid!
Let your child help you create a routine; let her offer feedback for what should go on the schedule and in what order. Have her suggest how much time to allow. If possible, let her help design her schedule, such as by decorating it herself or by selecting graphics to include.
Save yourself some effort and make the schedule resusable by laminating it or placing it on a sleeve protector and letting kids use dry erase markers to check off steps as they go. Change up the printed schedule from time to time with new graphics or stickers, such as for changing seasons and for holidays. You can find many ideas for printable schedules on Pinterest. (You can follow us on Pinterest as well for all kinds of useful information about mental health and parenting.)
Busy mornings run better when Mom and Dad remain calm despite things not going as planned. It’s not the end of the world if your child is occasionally late to school or didn’t finish her homework. Keep things in perspective. Remember, your relationship with your child is more important than her wearing clothes you prefer or practicing the piano for a full 30 minutes every day.
3. Make Homework Run More Smoothly
Carve out a set time for homework, even if that time varies during the week based on activities, and start with a healthy snack. Protein such as cheese, a glass of milk or sandwich meat is great because it boosts energy, supports clear thinking and motivates the thought processes of the brain.
Designate a homework spot and eliminate as many distractions as possible, including turning off all electronics. (Playing classical music in the background may help your child focus, such as Mozart or Bach.) Even better, get other children to do homework at the same time; young children could color, and you could quietly read a book.
If your child really struggles to complete homework, start small. Encourage your child to complete some of the homework. Some is better than nothing. Celebrate what she is able to finish. Then gradually try to increase the time/amount of homework celebrated. Think baby steps.
Offer an incentive for finishing homework. Choose something that is age appropriate and that motivates your child, such as a small treat, screen time or play time with you. For some children, you can try offering the incentive before she completes her homework if she agrees to get working on homework right after receiving the incentive.
You could also offer a large incentive at the end of the year to keep your child motivated long-term, such as a special trip, coveted concert tickets or whatever highly motivates your child. (One mother said this worked well for her children as they adjusted to the increased workload during seventh grade.) Create a progress chart to show how close she’s getting to the special reward.
Be careful about correcting your child’s work. Offer guidance if she asks, but don’t be overly critical. Don’t expect homework to be 100% correct, or you’ll make it a stressful time for your child. Try to keep homework time relaxing and enjoyable. Let the teacher teach.
If your child gets upset and frustrated with homework, you can use validation to help calm her down. “You’re really frustrated right now. Those math problems are so hard for you. I get it, honey.” Have her take a break and try again. If she’s still stuck, reach out to the teacher (or YouTube). Always let your child know you support her and appreciate her hard work.
If you’re adventurous…once in a blue moon, let your child play hooky or leave school early just to spend special one-on-one time with you. (Ssh, don’t tell her teacher we said this!) Find an activity she loves to create a memorable, bonding experience with you.
Neurotherapy often helps children behave better (without medication) in the classroom and at home. Call us at 801-855-799 for a free consultation to discuss how we can help your child improve his or her behavior, attend one of our free parenting or teen workshops, or browse our web site to learn more: www.ntcutah.com.
Thinking of Seeking Treatment?
If you’re ready to seek healing through therapy, we believe it’s important to find a therapist who fits your needs. And if you’re seeking a therapist for your child, you should find a therapist who is skilled at helping children. We offer a free consultation so you can find out if we’re a good fit for you or your child. Call or text us at 801-855-7999 to schedule a consultation. Or you may find it easier to use our online scheduling tool anytime, day or night. Select New Client. Next, under Service, select either “Free Phone Consultation” (for a phone consultation) or “Free In-Office Consultation” (to come into our office in Clinton in person) and you’ll see a variety of times available. It’s quick and easy, and there’s no obligation.
If you’re not ready to seek treatment now, we invite you to stay in touch as you continue learning about how best to help your child or improve your own mental health:
- Sign up for our free wellness newsletter. We share information about mental health, brain health and parenting. Plus, we’ll remind you about upcoming events. We usually send out our newsletter twice a month.
- Attend of one of our free community workshops. We hold workshops to help parents plus workshops to support teens at the same time.
- Learn more our founders and our team of therapists.
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- Follow us on Pinterest for tons of resources about mental health, your brain and parenting.
We understand that seeking therapy is a big decision and it can be intimidating, but we’re here to make it less scary and, ultimately, incredibly rewarding. We’re here when you’re ready to talk.
Your friends at NeuroTherapy and Trauma Center of Utah