Back to School 101: Homework, Sunday Night Meltdowns and More
Everything you need to know about the upcoming school year
An interview with Dr. Jeffrey Dolgan, Senior Psychologist at Children's Hospital Colorado
How do you recommend parents prepare for the upcoming school year?
They should do a SWOT analysis - strengths, weaknesses, opportunity and threats - for the school and their child. Parents should think about the strengths of the school and then the strengths of the child. How will they support the strengths of the child? If parents do this for each area, they can get a lay of the land and understand their child's wants and needs.
How do kids feel about returning to school?
Most kids are ready to go back to school. Sometime in August, they'll probably say, "Forget this. I want my pals at school." They're looking forward to recess, to new friends, new classes and teachers. What also comes up is fear. Many are afraid of school rules - not because they don't know them but because they might violate them, probably inadvertently. Get advice on how to avoid struggles with your child about going to school.
Why is it important for kids to participate in choosing their school?
Very often kids feel disempowered, like they have no control. If you want to be kid-centered, let them help make the decisions. It's their school, after all. Most kids can say what works and what doesn't. Kids will say they want to be in a school that's friendly, where they learn some things, where they're safe, where they know what to do about bullies, what to do with social networking. It's also good to discuss what you've found out about the new school, such as class size, classes offered and extra-curriculars.
How can we avoid the infamous Sunday night meltdown?
The Sunday night meltdown happens when the kids put off homework until the night before it's due. This is when we teach kids about choices. Parents can use the "if and then" dialogue: "If you do your homework now, then you won't be unhappy Sunday night" or "If you do your homework now, we will have time to do something fun on Sunday night." In other words, kids can choose to either get to it now or suffer the consequences of doing it later.
If parents look carefully, Sunday is a stressful time for them as well. They have to go back to work and maybe they didn't finish some things. The likely climate at home is tense. Parents can also say, "You know, I get tense on Sundays, so it's not the best time for me to help you with a project." Talking to kids in this way helps them feel that he or she is not alone with the Sunday anxiety. If a child still chooses to put off a project until Sunday night, parents should not help them, emphasizing that their poor choices may lead to a poor grade.
How can parents help their kids aim for success in the new school year?
It's important for kids to know how they can count on their parents. Encourage your kids. Practice empathy. Some kids can grind themselves down and develop anxiety about school because of something that happened last year. This is a chance to start over. Talk about the things they can cross off from last year that are non-issues now. Say things like, "After all, you're not going to be around so-and-so anymore." Help ensure that they do their homework. Ways to get involved at your child's school
When should parents stop asking their children about homework?
It's a gradual change. The parents' role when kids are younger should be that of a manager. A good manager is aware of timelines and of all the people involved. The manager is part of the plan's execution. As the child ages, that manager role changes to a consultant. You become someone who mentors and guides, but isn't as involved. Parents need to understand that they shouldn't try to manage their kid past 16 or 17 years old.
An article for kids about going back to school