This weeks school success tip is to do with improving communication.
Communication is one of the secrets to school success. Communicating with your child, their teachers and other school professionals is all important.
One of the tricky situations is when your child comes home and tells you about something that happened at school. Now you weren't there... and therefore you really don't know what happened. So what do you do?
Depending on the situation you may want to go full on Mumma Bear, but before you do have a look at the success tip.
Firstly, check in with yourself. If you have really strong feelings about what is being reported to you I wonder why. Maybe a similar thing happened to you at school, maybe it's happened to your child before, or maybe you are just very surprised. It's important to sit and digest those feelings before responding by sending off an angry email, gossiping about it in the car park or using your crystal ball and imagining the worst possible scenario.
Secondly, put all this in the context of how your child normally responds to situations. Do they tend to see the worst or best in a situation? Are they a sensitive child or rarely show emotion? Do they have confidence or experience anxiety? Whatever they are reporting is through the lens of their emotions and personality.
Thirdly, take some time to gather all the facts you can, or as best your child can remember.
Doing all of this is all important preparation for approaching the school and/or teacher.
ps. If being part of a group that focuses on helping children achieve school success interests you, you are welcome to join us at http://bit.ly/secretsofschoolsuccess.
Does it sometimes feel like everyone else knows the secrets of school success? Other people's children find learning to read easy. How come they get invited to parties? I think the teacher picks on my child. What am I meant to do at a parent-teacher-student conference thingy? What is a speech therapist and what does it mean if the teacher thinks my child needs one?
There are sooo many questions when your child starts school. What is important? What makes a difference to your child's school experience?
It is said that when we are older we don't remember much of what we learned at school, but we remember how we felt. We remember the feelings of humiliation of being chosen last for sport, pride at winning the timetable race, happiness at a party invitation, embarrassment when the teacher hit us on the hand with a ruler, anxiety about exams..
We remember the feelings of humiliation of being chosen last for sport, pride at winning the timetable race, happiness at a party invitation, embarrassment when the teacher hit us on the hand with a ruler, anxiety about exams.
What are the nine things to include in a school success schedule. And why does your child, especially if they are just starting school, need a schedule? They don't have any homework to do....
Following on from talking about uniforms and managing anxiety about starting school, this article looks at the importance of having a schedule.
Why create a School Success Schedule?
One main reason - predictability.
Going through this process helps everyone in the family, particularly your child, know what to expect. This predictability will help with easing the stress associated with starting a new School Year.
When your child starts school for the first time, (or even for the 10th time) there is a shift in routine. From holiday rhythm to school structure. This is a huge change and can be a source of stress for parents and children.
There are also a huge number of questions that need answers. Who is doing drop offs, pick ups? What time do we need to get up, go to bed? When do we prepare lunches? What activities are scheduled for after school? Is that too much, too little? Reading? Bath or shower in the morning or at night? How much time people have in the morning really varies. Does your child naturally wake early or late? Is there a commute to school? Do they have a bus to catch?
The aim is for your child to get to school on time and to get home from school, safely. How this happens is flexible.
There are no right or wrong answers to many of these questions. But like most things, open communication means people are less likely to argue based on assumptions or lack of information.
What do you put in a School Success Schedule?
If you want your child to thrive here are 9 things that may help.
Does your child have meltdowns over school uniforms? In my last blog I talked about some ways of helping reducing any anxiety your child may have about starting either school for the first time, or changing schools. Today is about the uniform.
This is often a contentious issue for children and adolescents I have seen over the years. Uniforms by virtue of their name are meant to be an equalising factor in the school equation (see what I did there.. a maths reference..). They are also an important part of the branding for many schools.
But as we know not all children fit the one size fits all uniform. There are many reasons for this - sensory sensitivities is a major factor. It includes things like - this tie is strangling me, my jumper/pants are itchy, and I hate the feel of school shoes.
These issues can result in arguments between parents and children and students and their teachers. However, just a few simple tips can help avoid some of the frustrations that often arise with uniforms.
1. If your child has sensory sensitivities, it is a great idea to have them get used to wearing their school uniform, including the shoes and hat. If doing this doesn't work, it's time to sit down and negotiate some modifications with the school.
2. Where ever possible see if you can source second hand uniforms - much better for your finances and the environment. And often these are good to help with sensory sensitivities because they are softer.
3. Check what is compulsory and what isn't. Does your child want/need a variation?
Are girls allowed to wear 'shorts'? This is a common one that pops up. If it's not on the list, but is something your child wants to do - this is one worth a call with the school and possibly worth taking a stand on.
If you have a good reasons for requiring a modification to uniform most schools will understand. This can help prevent daily arguments and frustrations.
Also, your child may want/need to wear shorts during winter instead of long pants. Speak with the school and ask for permission. They can then give your child a note which they can use if they are questioned by other teachers as to why they are out of uniform. .
They may want/need to wear a long sleep top under their dress. Once again speak with the school. If you have a good reasons for requiring a modification to uniform most schools will understand. This can help prevent daily arguments and frustrations.
So, open up the communication with your child's school and keep it open. Having their allowed modification on record is important. These tips will need to be reviewed when the uniform changes from Summer to Winter.
ps If you have a child in the early years of school - Prep to Grade 4, you may be interested in our new community created to support your child's (and yours!) school journey. It has been designed to help your child thrive.
Is your child anxious about starting school?
I remember when my eldest child started school. They were was so excited. I was anxious... Will they like it, what will their teacher be like, how can I help, do I stay in the classroom? The questions were endless. We had done some orientation but it was still a bit scarey. Together we negotiated the year. They had a wonderful teacher. She was strict, but clear, with us newbie parents and we felt a part of the class.
If you're feeling some of my first day at school nerves, have a think about your first day at a new job, or walking into a new group of people. What helps - some knowledge, preparation, confidence, a friendly smile - these will help your child too. Drop them off confidently with a big smile, your confidence will transfer to your child (then meet up with the other Prep parents to express your concerns and try and find answers to your questions).
Share with your child what you know about the school, their teacher, the classroom, go over the information you received at orientation.
Signs of excessive anxiety in your child
These may include them continually asking you the same questions; having nightmares; changes in their eating or sleeping habits or other behaviour; crying or becoming angry for no reason; regressing to previous developmental stages such as wetting the bed, sucking their thumbs; saying they don’t want to go to school; and/or showing no interest in going to school.
Nothing seems to help
If you find these strategies are not helping maybe your child is not ready for school. There is no evidence supporting that starting your child at school early is beneficial. In many cases giving them a bonus year at Kindergarten is the best decision. You may also find it helpful to get individually focused assistance for your child to learn anxiety management strategies.
If you would like to be part of the conversation about starting school, and then keeping on going with school for the next 13 years... you are welcome to come and join the Early Primary - Thriving in the Early Years group for parents. It's a long journey and it can help to have someone help you navigate the ups and downs.
* My aim is for these posts is meant to useful, interesting and/or inspiring. They are not designed to be used for therapy..
Kim Dunn is a Child Psychologist and Founder of Positive Young Minds.