Keep Your Eye on the Ball

This month, we’re revisiting one of Jo’s most popular back-to-school editorials. This piece appeared in the September 2007 edition of Jo’s eNewsletter. 

Now you’ve gotten kids off to school, experienced first day jitters (for you, no them) and taken more first day pictures than necessary, you now have the time to think about what you will do now that they are off. There may be a newfound freedom and liberation, but also a thought of “what I will do with myself?”  For some moms school will only be a few hours of their day, but for others it will be all day. Now’s the time to concentrate on some key areas of “okay so now the kids have been at school for a few weeks, what can I expect?” Here are a few of my answers to some common concerns that parents may have. Just remember to keep your eye on the BALL:

B bullying. No matter how much you try and protect your child, you can never completely protect them from being bullied or becoming a bully. This is repetitive behavior that is taken out on a child. It doesn’t just happen in the playground, it happens in the classroom, after school, on the cell phones, Internet and email. Who is prone to being bully? It’s not always who you think. A bully could be any kid that’s jealous towards another. They bully (or the child being bullied) can be the most unlikely kid in the classroom – it could even be your own child. Bullying can make kids feel sick, isolated, scared or even embarrassed or humiliated in front of their friends. You will notice a difference in the behavior of your child. Let’s not underestimate bullying because it’s a MAJOR problem. The impact can also affect schoolwork, self esteem, confidence and make safe places (like school) suddenly feel unsafe and threatening.

The best thing for a child being bullied to do is to tell someone (even when the bully tells them not too). Tell a teacher, parents, friend, expose, expose.

A for anxious. Even though a school routine has been developed, children can still feel anxious and stressed. How can you tell the signs? A lack of sleep (resulting in grouchy or tired children). Butterflies in the stomach (or upset stomach) can indicate that maybe your child doesn’t feel prepared or there maybe something wrong at school. Your first step is to find out what’s wrong. Are they not connecting with the teacher? Is the work too hard for them/to easy? Are they being bullied? Not finding the right crowd of friends? A good way to discover answers to these questions is to have your children keep a school journal for the first few months of school. Have them write in it whatever they feel like: what they’ve done in school, about their teachers, friends, etc. and talk to them about it. Communication is key. Ask your kids questions that don’t just require yes or no answers. Engage them; learn the names of your child’s friends and teachers. Who’s the “class clown” the best friend, the “smartest?” Children love to talk about what they’ve discovered as long as you engage them and are interested in what they have to say.

Even if your child is old hat at school, just the change to a new building or moving up from elementary school to middle school or middle school to high school can be a big change. All of this new change needs to be backed up with support at home.

L for learning difficulties. If a child avoids doing their homework, doesn’t want to do it or says they can’t do it, may need the extra help listening or focusing. Give them a quiet and controlled space in which to do their work. Help them when they need it and offer any assistance you can. Make sure there are no distractions in the room and give praise for a job well done or when your child figures out the correct answer to a particularly difficult question. If they get frustrated, be patient with them, keep them focused and continue to give praise. Tell them it is a challenge and that you will help them if they need it. Make sure you set aside an early time to do homework with your child. If it’s too late, your child will be too tired to focus and concentrate on homework or studying. It’s all about finding the balance in your schedule and in how your child’s body clock functions.

Most public schools offer free after school tutoring from older students or teacher run study time and extra help. If you child is having any difficulties in a particular subject, check in to programs like these or see what is available through your school or community.

L for life skills. Teach your children time management and how they can be more self-sufficient. Buy them an alarm clock and teach them how to set it to show them responsibility waking up in the morning. Set up a timetable with them and keep it pinned up in their room or the kitchen. Include school schedule, homework, extra-curricular activities and chores. Have your child participate in checking things off the list or adding to the list (as the case may be). Teach them how to keep a mental checklist: do you have everything for school? Books, lunch, sneakers for PE. Have them start to make or pack their on lunch. This will help them to remember to take it the next morning. Prepare as much as you can the night before so you’re not running around stressed in the morning.

This also contributes to how children remember, listen and their communication skills, as well as taking direction.

Moms what worried you the most while your child was going back to school and what did you do to channel that worry? Other moms might be going through the same thing. Post your stories and suggestions in the forums – you never know when other moms are going through the same thing with their children.


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