Late last year, your child was racing home and proudly showing off his or her wonderful worksheets. You would often see a cute little sticker, happy face or a high score affixed to the top of the page. Everything changed after the winter break. Now you are seeing red marks and poor scores here and there. Now there's a sad little face, but it is not on the paper. It's on your child.
A few weeks ago, your child was excited to sit down and complete homework activities. Now, it’s like “cutting teeth” to try and get him to focus for even 10 minutes.
How can you help your child right now?
Why is this happening? The very first thing you should do is look at the situation at home. Have there been any stressful occurrences within your home or your extended family unit? Have bedtime routines begun later than usual in the past couple of weeks? Is your child sleeping well at night and eating a healthy and balanced breakfast? Any change in routine could disrupt your child’s schedule and throw him or her off in a different direction. It may be time to look at your daily routine and make important adjustments to help your child. You may also want to consider starting bedtime routines earlier. Consider playing a board game with your children before sending them off to bed with a story that you read to them. Remember, even older children love to be read to. Grab a chapter book and read aloud one chapter per night. Now you can experience the books your child enjoys and learn more about them!
What if nothing has changed at home and there have not been any stressful events that you are aware of? It is time to start asking questions. Ask your child how he or she is feeling about their school work. What happens when they take a test at school? Is it difficult to see the board? Do they raise their hand and ask questions when they are confused? Do they listen to the teacher when she is speaking? They may think they are listening but actually be daydreaming just enough to miss the important points. Playing board games and asking questions after you have read a couple of paragraphs are activities to try in order to help them with their concentration.
Are they having any problems with peers? It is very important to find out if a child who sits next to them is being noisy or annoying them. Or, have they had other issues with their playmates such as “bullying” behavior by others or thinking that they have no one to play with at recess time? Sometimes, children are reluctant to bring these issues to the attention of their teacher. However, it is important that they are willing to discuss these so they may be solved. Try “role playing” with your child. You pretend to be the teacher and your youngster must approach you and tell you about something that is bothering him or her. It is extremely important that your child take responsibility for what he or she needs and to verbalize their concerns. When they take action and the problem is solved, they will feel better about their own abilities and much more in control of certain situations.
What happens when you have tried everything and nothing seems to help? Don’t panic! Spring conferences are coming up in March. However, report cards are also coming. If the situation is not improving, contact your child’s teacher and request that your parent/teacher conference be held earlier so that you can discuss the situation. Teachers are generally more than willing to hold a conference with a parent whenever they ask, so take advantage of their willingness to listen to the problem and help with the solutions.
One more point: In January and February, we sometimes have a student who seems to be struggling academically “all at once”. In the lower grades, we have spent the last few months teaching some new concepts while reviewing significant pertinent information and offering activities that solidify what the students have previous learned. We are past that now and we are teaching even more new concepts. This could seem overwhelming to your child. Don’t worry needlessly. Your child’s teacher will be able to give you ideas and suggestions that will help create a more positive school experience for your child. You want your child to be successful and so do we!