Back to School Tips

Before your child starts another year of school, it can help to get in touch with exactly what is the role of school in your family’s life? Although home school can be an option, most families do delegate schooling to our government or privately supported school systems. But for each family what role the school plays can be different and can change over time. It can vary from on the one hand setting up the family’s whole life around the school activities to on the other hand letting the child deal with school on his own and continuing as usual with family patterns as before.

It is good to know where you stand on this continuum and discuss it with your spouse or partner, if any, in parenting, so that you can avoid misunderstandings and potential conflict later. If one parent wants to oversee all homework projects before play and the other would rather see the child play until it’s dark and then do what she or he can on her or his own, the child will be caught in the middle and maybe even figure out how to get her or his own way which may not suit either parent.

As we would expect, most studies of how children function in school suggest that moderation is key. Children must find their own way to adjust to the rigors of school, but they also, as children, need the guidance and support of their parents.

Some intriguing studies have shown that children’s report cards improved when the parents took more of a hands off approach, avoiding adding pressure to the pressure already inherent in the school teaching environment. Offer answers and help when asked, but avoid micromanaging their school interactions.

There is plenty to do at home as a parent,. Setting schedules is much easier if it is done before school starts, or at least early in the year. Depending on the child’s age and maturity, do what you can to involve the child in setting the schedule. But remember who is in charge and be sure there are enough hours for sleep, breakfast and dinner, and family social time. That pretty much uses up whatever is left after school and homework. But these parts of a child’s day are every bit as important as schooling.

It is during these family times that children pick up what is important and valuable to their parents, what lifestyle choices will stand them in good stead for life, and how to interact in a more comfortable informal setting, rather than the largely artificial setting of school, where a hoard of children respond to a few authoritative adults who are non-family and where the day is broken up into managed segments over which the child has no control.

Be sure to take time before and after school to greet the child with caring and a smile. Try to avoid last minute reminders in the morning, or grilling in the afternoon. The child will tend to have more self-confidence if it is clear that the parent-child relationship is still more important than the child-school relationship.

And let go of perfectionist tendencies. Kids will make mistakes, forget their assignment, forget their ball, forget what the teacher said, etc. If you give them space without shame to do better next time, they will learn much more quickly than if they think they have let you down.

Make sure their home diet is up to your standards, as the challenges at school regarding diet can be daunting. Studies show that if quality food, which is relatively free of chemical additives, fabricated food products, and highly refined or artificially flavored foods, is made available to kids, they will tend to eat a healthy diet over the course of a week. So make meals a fun social time, not a stressful time for lectures.  And also be careful about body image issues.

But do have meals. Have the kids help prepare them and they will be better eaters. And be sure to have healthy snacks for after school. The parent’s example is always stronger than anyone else’s, especially in the early years.

There’s a lot to think about, but the pay-off is worth it. So many children today are missing breakfast, not getting a good night’s sleep, and then snacking on sugary and/or chemical-laden drinks, candies, and baked goods. It is no wonder attention and behavior problems are on the rise.

Encourage your children to have compassion for those kids, but let them know you are serious about your job to help them avoid these problems.

You can find much more in my books, You Can Postpone Anything But Love, and The Seven Secrets of Successful Parents.

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