A Parents’ Back To School Guide

Human beings love to learn.  We are wired to learn and to gain
satisfaction from learning.  We spend our
entire lives learning.  There is a
Chinese Proverb that sums this up well: “Learning is a treasure that will follow
its owner everywhere.”   As true as this
is, try convincing a child who is struggling in school that this is the
case.  You may as well try to convince a
squirrel that a dog just wants to be friends.


There is generally an explanation for why a child
struggles in school; attention problems, anxiety, depression, home stress, bullying,
and learning disabilities are some of the more common culprits.  Children who are struggling fall behind
quickly, they are exposed every day to the fact that they are not doing as well
as other kids.  They rapidly become
frustrated, discouraged, and lose their confidence.  You can imagine why a child who is not doing
well in school will start to say things like, “I hate school”, “I’m stupid” and
“My teacher sucks.”


This is why, about one month into school, it is important
as a parent to step back and assess how your child is doing.  One month is about the right amount of time
for the transition to school from summer to be complete; relationships and
routines should be well established.
This is why, at this point in the school year, I offer you this “Parents’
back to school list”.
For school you will need:

  1. A working phone that has the number to the school dialed in.  Communication should be consistent and with an
    identified advocate for your child.
  2. Ears that are not filled with wax and are able
    to hear well.  Ask questions about school
    and listen to your child’s answers.  He
    or she, however, may not tell you anything (if so, see #3).
  3. Eyes that are observing the child’s behavior,
    body language, patterns of resistance or avoidance.  That can tell you a lot about what is going
  4. Arms with hands that give hugs and “thumbs up”
    for your child’s successes and because they need love and reassurance.
  5. A voice to ask the school for support or help
    when the child is not doing well.   You
    do not want to become the tutor or teacher for your child and do his or her
    work.  Trust me, that never goes
    well.  Public schools are required to
    offer support if a parent asks.
  6. Persistence.
    If you are not getting answers from the school or your child, keep
    digging.  You may need to go to higher
    ranking individuals in the school or the system to discuss your concerns.
  7. Diplomacy.
    Do it nicely, and with an attitude of corroboration.  Schools generally do not have the time or
    resources to deal as well with an angry parent.
  8. Creativity.
    Find the best environment for your child to study in, be it at a desk in
    the hall, in the silence of his or her own room, or on the patio, wearing a
    batman suit and listening to Perry Como records.  Also, keep an open mind.  Even if your dream was to always have your
    child attend a particular school, it may not be the right fit.
  9. Humility.
    Don’t worry about pride, don’t worry about the term “learning
    disability”, don’t worry about the potential stigma of a child being “labeled”
    with ADD, depression, etc.  If a child is
    struggling because of these things he or she will only do worse if they are not
    accepted and addressed.
  10. Empathy.
    If your child is not doing well, it is most likely very upsetting to him
    or her.  Children do care about school
    and about learning and they do want to fit in.
    The attitude of “I don’t care” is usually the child’s defense to cope
    with how bad he or she feels.  Try to
    avoid the punitive and negative approach.
  11. A Phone book.
    Call for a professional evaluation.
    Psychological assessments can help sort out why a child may be
    struggling with school.  A psychiatric
    evaluation can do the same and a psychiatrist or psychologist can help organize
    all of the different layers.  You do not
    want to be a clown doing this juggling act by yourself.
  12. Exercise shorts, friends, other fun things.  The stress of dealing with this kind of
    problem is immense.  Remember to take
    care of yourself.  It will only help in
    getting your child back on track.

For the vast majority of children who hate school or who
seem lazy and not to care, there is an underlying cause.  Sure, most kids complain about school, but
they do it and eventually admit that they do like to learn.  The earlier you can identify a problem and
mobilize support, the better your children will do.  Do whatever it takes to be the advocate.  Heck, if you have to, dress like a pirate and
act like you are on a treasure hunt with them.

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