Is your child enjoying this school year? It’s not too early to assess—and kick some problems to the curb before they become unmanageable.
It may seem early, but October is a perfect point in the school year to assess your child’s progress. He has had enough time to become accustomed to his schedule, routine, and new classmates; and the teacher has informally assessed kids to determine progress compared to grade-level expectations. Since it can take weeks or months to fix academic or social issues, it is important to assess early and often. In addition, waiting can cause some problems to become more difficult to fix, which could negatively impact your child’s self-confidence.
There are three main areas to evaluate at this point in the school year. By asking yourself the following questions-and answering them honestly-you will recognize areas of weakness and be able to address them successfully.
Ο YES Ο NO Does your child enjoy school, speak positively about her teacher, and feel good about her successes?
Ο YES Ο NO Does your child complete class work successfully most of the time?
Ο YES Ο NO Is homework relatively stress-free, not resulting in delays and tantrums (him) or excessive nagging and yelling (you)?
If you answered NO to any of these questions, begin by making an immediate appointment with your child’s teacher (don’t wait for official parent/teacher conferences). At this meeting, ask pointed questions and share examples of concerning behaviors. Agree on a concrete strategy to work towards a solution. Schedule another meeting to review your child’s progress. If necessary, request that the school psychologist or counselor be present at the next meeting.
Ο YES Ο NO Does your child report feeling content with her social life?
Ο YES Ο NO Does she have healthy friendships (respect for each other)?
Ο YES Ο NO Does she spend time with friends outside of school?
Ο YES Ο NO Are you confident that your child is not being bullied or that he doesn’t bully other children? (Bullying can be very difficult to see as an adult. It can physical or verbal; in person, online, or by cell phone.)
If you answered NO to any of these questions, your child needs support to learn strategies that will improve her social life. The right strategies will vary depending upon your child’s personality and needs. Even if your child is a bully, she still needs your help, rather than punishment. If she is a target of bullying, you may need to intervene directly. Ask your child about her social life. Also, speak to your child’s teacher and to the school counselor. If necessary, seek private counseling to help you and your child.
Ο YES Ο NO Does your child manage his daily routine — dressing, eating, bathing, activities, bedtime — with no more than age-appropriate assistance?
Ο YES Ο NO Does your child enjoy her extracurricular activities?
Ο YES Ο NO Is she able to balance school with additional activities?
If you answered NO to any of these questions, it is time to assess your child’s routine and schedule. Perhaps he needs a more or less structured routine. The adults must create the structure and then reinforce it consistently. If you are concerned that your child is lagging behind others in the activities of daily living, consult your pediatrician to determine whether an evaluation is recommended. Maybe your child has too many extracurricular activities, which has caused him to become overwhelmed. You have time before the second semester or next sports season begins to reassess and adjust accordingly.
Dr. Susan Bartell is a nationally recognized child psychologist, speaker, and award-winning author. Her latest book is “The Top 50 Questions Kids Ask.” You can learn more about Dr. Bartell at www.drsusanbartell.com.