- Why it can be a challenge: One of the earliest home battles related to school is often homework. When to do, how to do it, where to do it, how much to help, etc. While some schools do not introduce homework until later grades, it inevitably becomes part of the daily school routine at one point or another. Homework takes away from time that can otherwise be spent doing a preferred after school activity, socializing, or just relaxing. Students may struggle with homework for a variety of reasons including: learning differences, executive function deficits or stamina.
- What you can do: Research tells us that homework does not hold much added value in terms of learning. Parents should have a realistic conversation with their children’s teachers at the beginning of the year to ask a few key questions: 1. How much time can my child expect to spend on homework each night? 2. How does homework factor into their grades? Is there a consequence if they do not complete all the homework each evening? And 3. How much help and supervision should I be providing for my child? The answers to these questions can help you structure what homework time should look like in your house. For example, if the teacher explains that they want the students to work for 30 minutes each evening and parents should not be assisting their children, then homework time may look like a timer being put on for 30 minutes and you making sure your child is actively working rather than helping them. Having these answers will help to formulate expectations and allow you to further frame the role of homework for you child. Furthermore, you can work with your child’s teacher to identify if any of the challenges listed above (learning differences, executive functioning challenges, etc.) may be a factor, which can put you on the correct path in seeking an evaluation and professional treatment.
- Why it can be a challenge: All children experience ups and downs in friendships, as well as periods of loneliness. Establishing and maintaining friendships over time is difficult and can be compounded by different variables at school. While these sorts of challenges may be typical at all ages, bullying is never acceptable and should be addressed immediately. Bullying is different than teasing in that there is an imbalance in the peer relationship.
- What you can do: Talk to your child about how he or she is feeling. It is important to always encourage your child to talk to you or a trusted adult at school if they are being bullied or they feel excessively worried in social situations at school. If you notice continued sadness or anxiety, consultation and treatment with a licensed psychologist is recommend. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is the gold standard in evidence-based treatment to address internalizing disorders.
3. Standardized Testing
- Why it can be a challenge: standardized testing is now part of the fabric of education. Curriculum is geared toward testing, and most schools will institute testing only focused work at one point in the school year. Additionally, there are outside tutors and programs designed to help students study for standardized tests. Many students struggle with various aspects of testing: academic pressure, testing environment, time constraints, method of testing, etc.
- What you can do: Talk to your child about the role of testing in their education. While testing is important, continue to prioritize other preferred activities and educational activities. This means it is important to not disrupt your child’s schedule for adding test prep, unless absolutely necessary. Work with your child to assess what is difficult about the testing. This may mean having a conversation with the teacher or a neuropsychological evaluation to determine if any testing accommodations may be necessary. Testing accommodations include: extra time, separate location with smaller amounts of kids, multiple day testing, etc.
- Why it can be a challenge: Sleep is critical to all cognitive functioning. Lack of sleep or not getting enough sleep can mimic many psychological disorders, including ADHD, Anxiety and Depression. Additionally, many school days start very early, which can be especially problematic for older children in middle or high school. Many times students are also up late completing homework and staying connected via social media. The combination of these two factors can lead to lack of adequate sleep. It is also important to mention that sleep is not cumulative, meaning lack of sleep cannot be “made up for” on the weekend.
- What you can do: Stress the importance of good sleep hygiene in your home. This means setting a bedtime routine and sticking to it as consistently as possible. Screens should be avoided right before bedtime as well. If your child has to wake up very early for school, bedtime routines should start earlier. Keep in mind that is important that your child also have time to relax before bedtime. For older children with personal electronic devices, these can be stored outside their bedroom to ensure that bedtime really means bedtime. Remember the recommended amounts of sleep per age: school age children (9-11 hours), teenagers (8-10 hours) and young adults (7-9 hours).
- Why it can be a challenge: Just like children have different styles of learning, all teachers have different styles of teaching. If your child’s teacher is not a great match, that can lead to daily difficulty in school. This can manifest in greater distractibility, behavioral concerns, academic struggles, as well as worry and sadness.
- What you can do: Talk to your child’s teacher. Assess the expectations of the classroom as well as your child’s ability to meet those expectations. Discuss accommodations with the teacher that may help your child become more successful. Examples include: movement breaks, alternate seating arrangements, classroom jobs, etc. If the situation does not improve, a trained psychologist or behavior therapist will be able to observe the classroom and make specific recommendations.
Written by Ariel Kornblum, PsyD, BCBA, LBA