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Back to School

Dr. Thomas Haller on your child's first day in class

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Dr. Thomas Haller Dr. Thomas Haller

Dr. Thomas Haller, a psychotherapist and author, offers these tips for making your child's first day back to school -- and every day thereafter -- a positive and successful experience.

You can watch or read his helpful information above and below.  

Building a positive school attitude

Having a positive school attitude contributes to a child's learning success. It is important for parents to help their children create a positive attitude about going back to school. To help your child, start by eliminating any references to the summer coming to an end or the work that they are going to have to get ready to do. When your child speaks negatively about school, redirect him or her into the positive. Talk about being able to see their friends, meet their new teacher and all the opportunities that being at school provides. Focus on your child's area of interest and emphasize all the ways in which school helps to enhance that topic. Help them see that going to school is filled with a variety of experiences that start happening from the moment they walk through the door until the final bell rings in the afternoon. Let them see your excitement for them and all the opportunities that are coming their way.

Reducing the first day jitters

Many children experience anxiety and worry about the first day of school. They worry about where their locker is going to be, who they will be sitting next to in class, what their teacher is really like. They even worry about when lunch is going to be. Most of a child's first day worry comes from the things they don't know. So to reduce some of these first day jitters help get the unknown, known. Talk with your children about all their worries and list them on a piece of paper. Then proceed to answer their questions and check their worries off the list. Visit the school prior to the first day and walk through it. Find their classroom, locate the area where their locker is going to be, talk to the school secretary about the lunch schedule. You might even run into the teacher and be able to have a brief meet and greet. For the younger children go out the playground, climb on the equipment and have a little fun together. For those kids in middle school and high school take their class schedule and walk from class to class in the order that they would be doing it in a regular school day. Take each worry that your child has and do your best to help them understand it and feel a sense of control over it.   

Setting goals for the school year

Too often children enter the school year without any real direction or purpose as to why they are even going to school. They simply go through the motions doing what they're told to do and many times not liking it. However, establishing a few goals for the school year can help a child set the direction for some of the things they would like to accomplish. Help your children create realistic expectations for themselves about school. Talk about what they want to accomplish this school year, not what you want them to accomplish. Remember not all of school is about grades. Making new friends, speaking out in class, standing up for oneself, staying organized, and managing behavior are all crucial skills for a successful school year. Discuss some actions steps they can take to reach each goal and how you might be able to help them as well. Write down their goals and put them on the refrigerator. Refer to them as the day's progress. Check in with your child periodically and see how they're doing at working towards their goals. Make a few adjustments as they progress and encourage them along the way. Look for moments when you can point out to them that they are working on their goal and celebrate their success.  

Establishing a morning schedule

Getting kids up and ready for school is an ongoing problem for many families. Most educators agree that how a child starts the day is a good indicator of how successful the child will be at school that day. Establishing a morning routine is crucial to ending morning madness. It is interesting to note that the morning routine actually begins the night before. Prior to going to bed help kids lay out the clothes they want to where to school the next day, pack their book bag and talk about what they want to eat for breakfast. Make a check list of the morning schedule and the order to that schedule. Younger kids can have the items in picture form and should have only three to five steps to accomplish. Each child can have their own, personal list and order to follow. Laminate the list and have the kids check off each item when complete. Remember, if you want a behavior you have to teach a behavior. Your goal, here, is to help your children learn how to get ready for school with the eventual result of being able to get ready on their own, when they are teenagers. Start early, take your time, teach with patience and reap the benefits when they are teens.  

Getting kids to do homework

One of the major challenges for parents throughout the school year is getting their kids to do homework. Let me give you a few tips for ending homework hassles that parents need to start with the first day of school. Begin by dropping the use of the word homework. No one likes homework. Instead call is study time. We have supper time, bath time, bedtime, and now, study time. During this specifically established time you are available to assist with their school work or projects. All electronics are turned off, the house is quiet, and everyone is doing something that grows the brain or feeds the mind. It does not matter if the child has an assignment from school to complete or not, they can read, play a fun math game, write in their journal. Remember everyone in the house is doing something that edifies the mind, adults included. Model the desired behavior of staying focused and on task. Elementary age kids should have about a 30 minute study time, middle school kids approximately 60 minutes and high school kids 90 minutes to 2 hours. If your child has more school work than they can complete in those time frames, check with the teacher as to why this is happening.  

How to handle the school bully

Bullying and how to eliminate bully behavior is one of the hottest topics in schools today. Every school has an anti-bullying policy. There is one important component for children to learn that can help schools create a bully free environment, how to report bully behavior. Children need to be taught the steps in reporting bully behavior to a teacher, playground attendants, or bus driver. Teach your kids these four steps. Step one: Go to an adult immediately and ask them for help. Step two: Tell the adult the facts of what is happening or being said. Remember, just the facts. The goal is to be as accurate and specific as possible. Step three: Tell the adult what you have already done or said to get the person to stop. Step four: Ask the adult for specific help in solving the problem. Practice these four steps with your child. Tell them that it is necessary to inform adults about what is happening so that the issues can be addressed immediately and by as many people as possible.  

What to say when your child says, "Why do I have to learn this stuff?"

At some point in this school year you are probably going to hear your child exclaim, "Why do I have to learn this stuff anyway?" Teachers and Parents alike struggle as to how to effectively answer this question for children. Two answers to this perplexing question exist both of which your children will need to hear. The first answer goes something like this, "I don't know when you will use this information in your life, I just know that we want you to have as much knowledge as possible so when you need the answer, you will already know how to do it and you won't have to learn it under pressure." Then you, as the adult, look for opportunities to point out where earlier information and skills they learned are being used in present day. The second answer goes something like this, "Part of what you are learning hear is also about how to do things you don't like to do or don't want to do. We all have to do things that we don't want to do and learning how to get through them is a valuable skill to have. It will help you be very successful in variety of things throughout life." Your children may not like the answers you give them and your goal is to help them see the bigger picture of how all the little pieces of learning add up to a vast knowledge base later in life.

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