Back to school brings the excitement of a new year but also the dread of dealing with homework and hectic routines. There are things you can do (and stop doing) to help manage your stress level and set your child up for success. Consider these tips to start off on the right track:
• Look at the big picture. Consider all the factors regarding the upcoming year and make decisions about what will work realistically. By all the factors, I mean: your child’s personality, their school work and their activities. Maybe your child has always loved being in an activity every day, but this year is going to be more academically challenging and he will need more time to study. Perhaps your child finds school difficult and needs an outlet, like music, art or sports, to balance out the stress of studying. Don’t forget yourself in the equation! If you are starting a new job, you don’t want to commit to chauffeuring your kids every single day and leading the PTA. Setting aside downtime to recharge your battery and doing the same for your kids is important to preventing burnout.
• Find a homework routine that fits with your child’s temperament. Some kids are ready to tackle homework as soon as they get home from school. While this type of self-starting behavior is ideal, not every kid works this way. Some kids need to decompress after school. After sitting for hours, they may need some physical activity. Learning what activities will help your child clear their mind and focus will go a long way in creating a routine that promotes success. All that said, it’s important to note that not every activity helps children to focus— watching TV or playing video games may be a preferred activity but it’s often difficult for kids to stop these activities once they start them.
• Stop rescuing your child. It’s easy for parents to fall into the trap where helping with homework morphs into doing homework. While it may seem like you’re helping your child, what you are really doing is sending the message that there are no consequences for their actions. Without this understanding, children never learn the discipline required to do their own work. Parents who do their child’s homework often feel trapped as their kids get older because they worry the child won’t get into college if their grades are low. However, getting into college without the study skills to stay there is no gift. Teaching them to take ownership of their homework and grades by making them accountable to the teacher for poor or unfinished work and by having consequences in place (no computer time or baseball team) at home is a gift.