When the Excitement of School Starts Wearing Off
Tina Feigal, M.S., Ed. Copyright © 2013
It’s a new school year! On the first day, your daughter had her new outfit, her backpack ready to go, and the permission slips signed. Lunches were paid or packed, her teachers seemed pretty cool, and there were new and old friends to enjoy.
As the days have gone by, homework assignments began with a trickle and now they’re coming in fast. The pressure to perform academically brings back memories of earlier struggles, and you notice your child starting to shut down. How do you help her stay engaged?
Here are 5 tips for helping your child stay on top of her school work:
1. Be curious about her school assignments, rather than directive. “What’s up with math for tonight?” is a better question than a worried, “Do you have math homework? How many problems?”
2. Pay close attention to your tone of voice when talking about school. Use a light-hearted approach, so your child doesn’t feel heaviness from you on top of the pressure she already feels from having assignments.
3. Keep your own anxiety in check around homework. If you struggled as a child, try to let your child have her own experience, without adding parental anxiety into the mix.
4. Allow your child to set the pace at night with some limits set by you. Say, “Let’s count back from bedtime to allow plenty of time for homework. Bedtime is at 8:30 (9:30, or 10, depending on her age) and you want to be sure to have some down time, so when would you think homework should be done?” Your child may answer, “By 7:30.” Then you say, “Great! What time do you think would work for starting, so you’re sure to have it done by 7:30?” “6:30” “Wonderful! Do you want to watch the clock and just get started?” “Sure, we can try that.” Then the struggles over timing are all relieved because you’ve handed the plan to your daughter, building her own sense of accomplishment.
5. If she needs support on her work, be nearby, but don’t hover. If she wants you to check it when it’s done, offer praise for her efforts first, and then offer suggestions for improvement.
Remember, this is your child’s new school year, and her academic experience. Allow her to try, without being perfect, so she learns from her mistakes. Help her to accept mistakes as learning experiences, not as signs of global failure. Tell her about the mistakes you’ve made today and how you overcame them. She’ll start to realize she’s not the only one, and she’ll feel her own self-acceptance in the face of new learning. You can even joke with her: “You’re not supposed to know this stuff already! That’s why they have school!”
And of course, let your daughter overhear you expressing appreciation for her school efforts. Say to your spouse or your mom, “Katrina has gotten off to a fabulous start this year. She’s already handed in six completed assignments!” What you emphasize will be repeated.
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