Today is the first day of school for my two elder children; the youngest begins Kindergarten this Thursday. For about a week, our family has been preparing for this eventuality: daydreaming, shopping (and returning), some worrying, and reviewing expectations. For many families, the back to school season can bring a great deal of stress and hand-wringing. For the next few entries, I will be examining some of the most important conflicts and stresses and offer a few suggestions to help smooth the bumpy road into the school year. For now, I will review two of the most important.
As I have previously written, I am convinced that the most important factor for your child is achieving sufficient sleep. Imagine trying to drive your car to work with one wheel missing. You could possibly make it, but it wouldn’t be pretty. You wouldn’t be able to respond to emergency situations or maneuver deftly. It’s the same with sleep. Get your child back on a sound sleep schedule ASAP! One recommendation: do not fall into the habit of allowing your child to stay up later because he or she is older. If you do that, he or she will be up until midnight or later by the time high school starts.
Second, I know that homework brings a number of stresses and conflicts into many families. In order to lessen the chaos, it is absolutely crucial that parents discuss homework expectations with the child’s teacher. Find out the following:
1. What are the goals for homework: Learning? Mastering? Practicing?
2. How long should the homework take? What if my child takes significantly longer?
3. Is homework to be done independently or am I expected to help?
4. What are the consequences for not doing (or incomplete) homework?
5. What if my child does not understand the homework? Should I leave it for the following day, try to teach my child the concepts in my own way, call the teacher, do the homework for my child?
6. What should I do if the child completes the homework, but it is fundamentally incorrect or sloppy? Should I even be checking?
7. What if my child has after school activities one or two nights a week that make it impossible to get the homework done without stealing crucial sleep hours?
Discover these and you will be able to build a healthy homework relationship with your child.
Feel free to offer me suggestions of back-to-school conflicts and stressors; I’ll weigh in on as many as I can in the following weeks.