Back to school or not - Do it with confidence!
Beginning another educational year can be a stressful time for children and parents. Whether your child is a part of the educational system or you home educate (which includes outside activities) you know that now is the time to plan ahead and get ready. Here are some ways to prepare both your family and your child for the new year ahead.
Get prepared and organized. A child’s anxiety will decrease if he feels prepared and organized. Planning the year together that articulates classes, extra activities and an ample amount of free time to enjoy life and family will help your child feel more confident about a new school year. Get your planner out and look at the year ahead together. Encourage your child’s participation because after all, this is for your child!
Give your child (some) control. It is fundamental to give children ownership so they feel in control and motivated during the school year. Discuss with your child which activities they really like and want to try or continue during this school year. Make sure your child feels he has a good balance between the learning and the other activities. Remember that both parents and children tend to get overzealous at times about the amount of hours there are in a day. Slow down and know you can always add in more later if need be. Introduce the “dream board” idea to your child so he can describe specific things he would like to accomplish this year. Fixing ourselves objectives should be introduced early in life and continued during the adult life. It helps to be in control of its life, provide a feeling of accomplishment and helps build confidence and self esteem.
Values and Self Esteem, peer pressure. In a school environment and even in a homeschool co-op classroom, children tend to compare themselves to others. It can sometimes be a challenge for a child to separate his own values and the value of the group, especially if that child does not have a very strong sense of self. It is however fundamental for a child to follow his own convictions and values which builds his identity, even under the strain of peer pressure. As parents, make sure you always encourage your child and be a good listener as you talk out the possibilities of what could be the right decision for him personally. Even if it may appear hard at the time for your child to follow his own convictions, the strong ethical character you are encouraging will reveal itself extremely helpful when he becomes an adult and faces tough decisions. Encourage your child to meet new good friends if your child does not feel totally comfortable within their current group. Even as an adult, it is important to be surrounded with people who have the same values and similar objectives in life, and in order to find those people, you have to meet many.
Mistakes are valuable lessons! Always let your child know that mistakes are an opportunity to learn. There is this misconception especially reinforced by schools that children are not allowed to fail. This is wrong. It decreases the child’s self esteem and enforces negative self talk such as “I can’t” and “I am not good at…” Help your child feel confident about his own abilities by first explaining that mistakes are normal and should be considered as an opportunity to learn. How many times will a Pole vault athlete fail before he succeeds? Just like that athlete, a child needs much practice in order to “get it right” or succeed in an area. Instead of saying “I am not good at Math” a healthy self talk would be “I could use some help to understand this", then support your child in the effort “you do great in school. Math is just a subject that you need to spend more time on and we can spend more time together. It’ll be fun.” Also be a positive role model for your child. A child might be discouraged more easily when parents are pessimistic or excessively harsh on themselves and children tend to mirror that. Mistakes are part of life and children need a little help from loving adults to learn perseverance until they do succeed.
Be a good listener. Maybe one of the most important pieces of advice is to just be present and listen! Each child is unique and nobody knows better your child than you, so make sure you dedicate enough time each day to dialogue with your child. Nothing can replace this time. Make sure you give your child plenty of opportunities to express his opinion (which will increase his self esteem and let him know that he is valuable to you). If your child feels comfortable articulating ideas with you, chances are that participating in the classroom or group environment and conversing with classmate will be easy too.
Make sure Family stays top priority. It is vital that families have time together and that family members come first before work, shopping, TV, computer or anything else. Taking the time to listen to each other (as noted above) talking together, and sharing ideas and opinions is what makes a family so strong and it then imparts that strength to each of its members. It is the glue that binds a healthy personality. Plan as many meals as possible around the dinner table. Learn to cook in bulk to save time and money. Recent studies have shown that only 28% of American families eat their meals together. Those 28% who do, feel a real connection and closeness to one another, they know each other better and struggle less with outside pressures and addictions that try to fill space of what is lacking. Your home space is the heartbeat of your family. Make sure it is welcoming and loving by putting family first.
Well being and Relaxation. Children need some time to relax every day. This is a vital piece of a full, productive day. We all have active time and we need quiet time too. Implement a quiet time for example after studies are done during the day (or after school) and before your child goes to bed. Institute reading time or listening to a relaxation CD. One of the main keys of physical health is overall psychological health. Rest and relaxation is needed and required for full productivity.
The beginning of a new school year is a great time to re-evaluate your child’s needs; your family’s needs and implement new goals and strategies for the year. Including the above tips will help the transition back to learning be easy and smooth. Remember the whole role of a parent is to educate a child in the best possible way, that includes the vital emotional skills not taught in schools but so necessary for life. By retaining the family as the center of life, being flexible, remaining loving and working towards goals for the year, everything will fall into place, one manageable day at a time.