Right now, you and your child are most likely experiencing the effects of that potent back-to-school elixir: two parts stress, three parts excitement, one part high expectations, and a generous dash of chaos. It is a universal American experience that we – both kids and parents – feel an incredible sense of potential at the start of each school year. And, to enhance the excitement around this new beginning, we parents do everything we can. We buy fun new clothes and shiny school supplies. We help our kids to create the perfect study space at home. And, at the end of the day, we encourage our kids to share their new experiences around the dinner table. Or we do as many of these things as possible!
The truth is that we are hoping that the excitement of each of these steps will help propel our kids through the challenges that the new school year presents. Kids have to transition from summer mode to school mode and adjust to a more rigorous set of expectations from teachers and parents. New classes come with more complex social structures, increased responsibility and, of course, homework. Once you find yourselves deep into November, it can be easy to wonder, where did all that back-to-school enthusiasm go?
To keep the momentum going throughout the year, concentrate on these three strategies:
Keep talking. “How was school today?” At some point, your innocent question will engender a sullen, “Fine.” Sure, it could be because you took away TV privileges until certain vegetables were consumed, but it also could be that something happened at school. Instead of asking such a general question, keep tabs on ongoing projects or relationships. Was your friend, Emily, bossy again today? Did you play tag at recess? Don’t forget to incorporate your nanny into the conversation. Your caregiver can be a valuable barometer of your child’s mood and activities. Together, you can get the temperature on whether your child’s enthusiasm for school is waning.
Don’t fall behind. When you begin to suspect that your child could be headed for a downward spiral with homework, for example, don’t wait to act. It can be tempting to hang back and see how things pan out, but when it comes to schoolwork, if your child seems to be on the verge of struggling, take action. Check in with the teacher. Ask yourself, does my child need a tutor? Even if it is for only one day a week, a tutor can give you child that special attention that he or she may not be getting at school. Work with the teacher to get the most of the experience.
Spread the enthusiasm. If you’re excited, they’re excited. While we all have different relationships with learning, there have to be some elements of your child’s schoolwork that you can get excited about. If he or she is just learning to read, get them some fun books to read together at home. Talk about the books that your parents shared with you. Incorporate school themes into home life. Are they learning about addition and subtraction? Have them help you double a recipe for homemade pancakes. Ultimately, if you are excited about learning at home, you can help everyone preserve that back-to-school energy throughout the year.
Have you found that the shiny veneer of new school year excitement goes away a little too fast? How do you help your little ones stay focused?