Once the excitement of returning to school wears off, it’s time to assess how well the transition to school has actually been going. By now, the patterns of waking up early, doing homework and managing activities has settled in–for better or for worse–and the carefree days of summer may seem long past. Your daughter may be happily embracing the new experiences of school or she may be slugging through them. Your son may be doing his homework diligently or spending more time texting than actually studying. Whatever the situation, taking some time to evaluate this first month is a worthwhile effort towards creating a year of effective and engaged learning. It can also help you lower any stress that may be starting to creep into your family life.
First, it is critical to reflect privately on how this month has unfolded: what has worked and what has not. I think it is always helpful to jot down some notes about your thoughts not only to remember them but also because writing often clarifies our thinking. Then, get input from your child’s teachers or guidance counselor via email or phone calls, also taking some notes. If you have not made contact with these people before, introduce yourself and the conversation as a chance to check in. If you have spoken with them already, getting an update is still useful. Make sure to inquire if any 766 (IEP) or 504 accommodations are being followed and how they are implemented. (If they aren’t, then arrange a meeting ASAP!)
Next, arrange a time to chat with you child to get his/her perspective. Discuss successes and challenges–academic, social, athletic. Look for specifics. This chat is not about criticism, blame or evaluation: it’s based on your curiosity about how things are going for them.
Review your mutual goals for this year and whether this month has been on track towards obtaining them. Share some of the positive information you have received from the school. Help your child understand the ways that she has already adjusted to the new year.
Talk about the family practices related to school. How are the mornings and evenings going? Do you need to post a schedule or a list of reminders? Is there an appropriate study space for your son? Is your daughter’s notebook organized in a way that makes sense for her? Can you monitor technology and social media use (overuse)?
Together, pick one area of improvement based on your thoughts, teacher/guidance counselor feedback and your child’s own impressions. Make a simple, straightforward plan for addressing this issue, positively and concretely. Try it for one month and check in weekly about how it’s going. Establish a regular, weekly meeting of 5-10 minutes (maximum) so there is no chance of your child feeling nagged. Follow up with the school too as the month unfolds.
At the end of the month, decide together if there has been sufficient progress on this issue or if it would still benefit from more attention. If you both agree that things are moving along well, you can mutually pick another one or just continue what is already working. Remember to stay as positive as you can, noticing your child’s efforts as well as the outcomes!