Start the School Year Right: Tips From Our Experts
Whether it's finding more time for family activities or getting better organized for school, the start of a new school year is a good time to rethink and plan ahead.
By GreatSchools Staff
Do you feel like you are always rushing? Is there a lot of yelling going on at your house? Take the opportunity of a new school year to rethink your family's activities.
We asked our consulting advisors who regularly answer our Ask the Experts questions in our grade-by-grade newsletters for their thoughts on how families can start the school year off right for success at home and at school. Here's what they had to say:
Dr. Ron Taffel, a New York-based child and family therapist, and author of Parenting by Heart, Why Parents Disagree, Nurturing Good Children Now, The Second Family, and a guide for child professionals, Getting Through to Difficult Kids and Parents, offers these suggested New Year's resolutions:
Listen without fixing.
Just once during the first two weeks of the new year, resolve to listen to your child's story about something that happened in school without immediately "fixing" the problem, interrupting or teaching a constructive lesson. Concentrate on listening first and then later on, when you and your child are both calmer, give advice or guidance and keep it short, very short!
Make a habit of finding time to talk and listen.
Pay attention to the times of day your child is most naturally open, whether it be during after-school snack, while watching TV, at bath or bed time, and protect those times as very special. In the new year, get in the habit of talking and listening for just a few minutes a day.
Debra Collins, a California-based licensed marriage and family therapist who has worked in both primary and middle schools as a school counselor, suggests the following:
For Parents of Young Children
Try not to overextend.
Make an effort to limit activities for your kids, especially younger kids - one or two activities are enough, especially for parents with more than one child. Otherwise, it causes stress all around.
If you have a child with special needs, he may already be getting extra services at school, such as working with a learning specialist and/or a tutor. If you add on more than one or two extracurricular activities, you'll have overload.
For Parents of Adolescents
Once your child hits middle school, it's harder to stay involved at his school. Your child may not want you around as much and there may be fewer opportunities to volunteer. Make a new year's resolution to get involved with your school's PTA, parent education forums, or start an independent support group with parents of your child's friends. If your school doesn't offer parent education forums, ask your principal about organizing one.
Take small steps toward giving your adolescent independence.
As children want freedom, parents tend to hold on tighter and tighter, which creates conflict. Let your child achieve small successes. For example, start out your teen driver driving short distances and gradually build up to longer trips. Or if your child wants a later curfew, give him a chance to show he is responsible by giving him a slightly later curfew. Tell him you'll extend it after he has met his current curfew for a specified period of time, and also consistently keeps you informed about where he is and who he is with.
Learn to listen to your child with your ears and not your mouth.
Make an effort to remain calm, slow down and listen to find out what your child is really asking before jumping in with an answer.
Dr. Ruth Jacoby, a Florida educator, principal, educational consultant and author, (most recently of Parent Talk!: The Art of Effective Communication With the School and Your Child) had the following suggestions: