S-C-H-O-O-L SPELLS SCHOOL
NOTE: Old Article that does not address return to school and COVID19
Once again the carefree days of summer have ended. The well-known adage comes to mind, “S-C-H- double O-L spells school and don’t you dare be late!” Although any good school professional will advise you to get your child (or teen) to school on time every day, here are some additional time-tested suggestions that facilitate and support school success:
Provide Your Child With Unconditional Love
Feeling love and demonstrating genuine care and affection toward your child is a principle ingredient to a child’s self-esteem and school success. Show your love by exhibiting interest in your child’s thoughts and feelings. I have actually had students tell me that they don’t care about education or the future because their parent doesn’t care about them. Although most of the times, this is a misperception on the child’s part – don’t assume your child feels loved. Verbalize and demonstrate your love! Children who know they are loved are better equipped to stand up to negative peer pressure, are more able to resist misbehavior and can focus on academic success.
Ensure Your Child Is As Healthy As Possible
Although love, nutritious food, and a sense of safety are paramount to school success, it is equally important to ensure that your child is as healthy as possible. Follow the routine examination and immunization schedules outlined by the American Academy of Pediatrics.
In addition, encourage your child to exercise. While structured sports and activities (swimming, dancing, basketball, etc.) are wonderful, physical exercise does not have to be elaborate. In my household, one of our favorite activities is to walk the dog to a nearby park where we challenge each other to canine versus human races. Appropriate physical activity supports healthy mental and physical development and can establish healthy practices that last a lifetime!
Serve Breakfast Every Morning!
My father use to say, “Breakfast is the most important meal of the day.” He’d then prepare some sort of egg dish every morning! I am not advocating that one prepare eggs every day but a student who is suffering from hunger pangs cannot give full attention to the task of learning. Make a diligent effort to start each day with breakfast. Many schools participate in a School Breakfast/Lunch program administered under the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). For more information, contact the agency in your state that is responsible for managing the School Lunch and School Breakfast Programs.
Provide A Safe and Stable Home
Living in the Triangle and beyond can be hectic. Family members are pulled in many different directions and must meet a variety of demands. Predictable routines for dinner, homework, fun, wind-down and bed time can make the world of difference to your child and bring peace, stability and order to your household. Students who are worried about family issues or personal safety, or who live in a constantly chaotic environment can have difficulty performing at an optimal level, academically. If you feel your household is a bit out of sync – don’t fret! No family, child, parent or individual is perfect. Do your best and know that there are resources within the school and the community that can provide assistance and support through difficult times.
Read, Read, Read
Convey to your children that learning is important and does not just start or stop when the school doors open or close. Keep reading, listening and discussing books and ideas with your children. Not only do these practices facilitate a lifelong commitment to learning – discussion allows you and your child to know each other better and can build a healthy parent/child bond. When my son was five-years-old, we read a book that caused him to explain to me that after he graduated from college he wanted to “be a retired – like grandma & grandpa.” Listening to his thoughts gave me insight (smile) and led to a great discussion about occupations, hobbies and how people become “a retired.”
Be Active In Your Child’s Formal Education
Know your child’s teachers and maintain open communication with your child’s school. There are numerous ways to get involved in your child’s school; attend school open houses, join the PTA, participate in after school events, volunteer in the classroom – are a few examples.
If work and other commitments prevent you from actually spending time in the school, you can still stay connected. Some parents exchange e-mail addresses with teachers while others send occasional notes. Also, ask your child about school. Even little ones can recount major school events. A six-year-old was the first to inform me that one of his teachers was retiring from school. A nine-year-old succinctly shared her insight on how to best approach her teacher about a problem. Our children can help to maintain the school-to-home connection.
Allow Time for Fun and Recreation
Almost everyone I know likes to have unencumbered down time. Children also benefit from free time. Give your child time with favorite playmates. Fun and recreation can be educational. Plan and plant a garden, play board games (Scrabble and Boggle are fun even for those learning to spell) or use collected seashells to produce a piece of art. Make the ordinary extraordinary.
Do limit the amount of time your child spends in front of the television set, computer and electronic games. Some parents have a “no television/electronics during the school week” policy while others choose to simply limit the amount of television viewing and electronic games.
Lead By Example
If you are a parent who adheres to the “do as I say, not as I do” maxim, you may run into trouble. Keep in mind that your child IS constantly watching you. As a result, your negative habits and practices can easily become the practices of your child. If you fly off the handle when you are angry, you are showing your child that this is acceptable behavior. No matter how much you tell your child differently, your angry behavior will make its imprint on your child’s psyche. After all, “actions speak louder than words.” Once we as parents have developed self-discipline, we can work toward and expect discipline from our children. A disciplined child is one who is in control of her behavior and makes good choices. Such a child comes to school with the social skills that are necessary to benefit from classroom instruction.
Know Your Child
Know as much about your child as possible. That not only means knowing your particular child’s likes, dislikes, friends, learning styles and temperament, knowing your child includes having a general knowledge of your child’s developmental stage and what is generally expected for that age. The more parents know about their child and his/her developmental stage, the less likely they are to hold unreasonable expectations for that child. Remember that children are unique individuals and your child’s educators know and expect these differences.
Take Care Of Yourself!
It is worth repeating that none of us are perfect parents. Do the best that you can and take care of yourself. A parent or caretaker cannot take proper care of others if he or she is suffering. If you or your child(ren) are experiencing an inordinate amount of worry or stress, seek help. Counselors, social workers, psychologists, ministers and doctors are a few of the professionals who are educated in helping individuals and families during difficult times. Have a great school year!
Natalie Gidney-Cole, MSW, LCSW
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