The First Weeks of School
It’s happening. Kids have made it through the beginning of school with all its excitement and nervousness. Now the pace is quickening, and students are half way to their first progress report! (Help!) Teachers have set the tone for the year and clarified their expectations. They allowed the kids to accelerate slowly into the school year—but now they are up to speed.
Or are they?
After school activities have also begun. School and intramural sports are in high gear—football and soccer season are opening. Kids are getting back into shape after the summer. The days can be long and tiring. Children and teens get home and they are tired and hungry.
And maybe a little cranky too.
I used to teach 6 to 9-year olds Aikido (a martial art) on Tuesday nights at 6 p.m. During the summer, they were pretty attentive and energetic. But once school started, I could see that they were tired, sometimes hungry, and pretty well cooked by the time they got to class. It took a lot of effort to keep them on track for 50 minutes! Sometimes, I had to completely abandon my lesson plan and tailor the evening to their energy and concentration level.
Now is the time to assess your 2017 back to school plan.
How is it working? How do the kids seem to be adjusting to the new routine, new class, new expectations, new teacher(s), and maybe even a new school? How are they balancing school work with sports and activities? Are they getting to bed at a reasonable time? Are they getting enough sleep? (This is very important!). How is the bedtime routine going? What about mornings? Are electronics taking over, or are they kept in check? What about their social worlds?
This is a very good time for parents to step back and take a good look at how your kids are managing. Try to be objective. Trust what your children tell you---but verify. Make sure that you are getting the whole story, not just what they want you to hear. This may be especially important for our “tween” friends in middle school.
“So how is school going?” asks Dad. “Fine” says Billy, in 6th grade. “Have you done your homework?” asks Mom. “Yup” says Linda, age 13. “Do you have any homework tonight”, asks Mom. “Nope—did it all at school” says Tom, age 15. One word affirmatives abound. This is a good time to actually sit down with your youngster—log into the school homework site and see for yourself.
I always liked to have regular family meetings during the first several weeks of school. I wanted to take time to talk over how our “program” was working. I wanted to discuss the rough spots, and not in passing, but in greater depth. Our daughters always resisted—“We’re too busy!”, they groaned. But we insisted. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
This may also be a good time to pull in the reins. At the beginning of school, youngsters insist that “this year will be different!”. After all they are a year older and wiser. But sometimes, it is necessary to pull back a little bit and provide more structure and limits. Kids will nickel and dime you to death. The 30-minute weekday limit on X-box has become 45 minutes! “Just one more minute Mom, just let me finish this level!” has morphed into 5-10 minutes. Moms and Dads have to be the bad guys. It comes with territory.
It is easier to make small modifications early in the year then big changes later.
One student realized that she was taking too many AP classes and was having trouble keeping up. So, she decided to cut two of those classes out. She is now feeling back on track.
Look now, and when those progress reports hit the streets in October, you won’t be surprised.
Maybe you will even be pleased!