By now, preparations are well underway for this new school year. In some parts of the country, classes have begun, whereas for some school begins after Labor Day has ended. For me, my mind drifts back to last April. Why? Because I know that in many ways the best way to have a good school year is to think back at where things were the year before, once the newness had worn off and the end was not yet in site.
With that thought in mind, I want to take a look at some of the core issues I know challenged both parents and students last year and see if perhaps we can learn some new approaches so that this April we can all feel a bit more relief. To do that, I recommend that parents, students, and educators spend a few minutes with a pencil and a pad of paper reflecting on what aspects of life created the greatest stress and anxiety. To get you started, I am going to mention two areas of life that I know from my work usually top the list. In each case, I will share a few thoughts and resources to explore to help get you started in setting a pathway to progress.
The morning routine
Waking up. This can sometimes derail the whole morning. Who is responsible for making sure the child is awake at an appropriate time? What methods are being used to wake the child? What happens if the child does not wake up and get out of bed “on time”? These are all issues that sometimes create chronic battles and endless discussions. Keep in mind that, of course some issues with waking up are directly related to when the child has fallen asleep and how much sleep the child really needs. These issues are complicated further for kids with ADHD since statistically, 25-50% of these kids face challenges with sleep independent of medication usage.
Often parents worry that if their children are not up in time then their children will perhaps not have time for a healthy breakfast, may miss the bus, or may be late for school altogether. These are valid concerns, however, how parents manage these concerns is crucial. Choosing the road of least resistance and taking responsibility to wake your child and push them along to school may feel like the right decision in the moment, however, I caution you that you may be setting yourself, and your child, up for angst down the road. Learning how to be responsible for waking up on time is a Life Skill that can take trial and error to master. It involves intention, strategy, tools, planning, and in some cases, sacrifice (I just want to stay up for one more show…). I recommend helping your child be aware and discussing goals around each of the areas that will make getting up independently in the morning a reality.
The homework routine
There are so many issues here to tackle. When, where, do they have the proper materials, how much can they manage, do they have the academic knowledge to do the work? I am going to focus here on the parent role. Whether your child is in first grade or high school, the role you play in helping with homework is not just about the academic support, rather it is intimately entwined with your role as your child’s parent.
Rule number one: Never let your relationship suffer at the altar of homework!
Parents often get caught up in the quality of homework and /or the completion of the homework. If your stomach is already in a knot thinking about homework, then you know it’s time to take a step back and make a new plan.
At the core to remember is that doing homework is, as I mentioned above regarding waking up, a Life Skill. Knowing how to put aside leisure, prioritize your responsibilities, stay motivated through the sometimes challenging and boring parts, and manage time are things we adults must juggle every day – at work and as parents. Seen in the larger picture, I and my Parent Coaches work to help parents establish boundaries and expectations and provide appropriate supports. Here too, it starts by discussing goals with your child as to the role you will each play in helping your child work toward independence. And I strongly recommend incorporating the teachers in creating transparency so that the child knows you are all on the same team. Teachers can help empower parents by clarifying how much support they want the parents to provide and what to do if and when the child is not, for whatever reason, meeting the established expectation.
Remember, you are never alone in this journey.
Wishing you each a calm, productive school year.