The Mid-School-Year Slump: 6 Expert Tips That Can Help You and Your Child
January 16, 2013 by Holly Fields
What came first, the midyear slump or the argument? Whether your child is in elementary school, middle school or high school, their abilities can vary from scholastic success to academic phobia, with most children falling somewhere in between. How can you deal with this range of attitudes and sibling differences?
Report cards will come out again soon, but instead of putting his nose to the grindstone, your child is complaining, dragging his feet and seems to have lost steam. We talk to many parents on the Parental Support Line who are afraid that their child will never graduate from high school due to their academic attitude and inability to play the grade game. The first thing we like to do is to encourage parents not to look into the future and “awfulize” it, as James Lehman says. There are many factors and changes that constantly occur to children as they grow. We can’t foresee the future!
Here are some tools that our experts James and Janet Lehman, Dr. Bob Myers and Debbie Pincus offer to help structure your child’s study time at home.
1. What belongs in your box and what belongs in your child’s box? We can influence our children by setting up structures at home, but we can’t control them. They will be more receptive if they don’t feel like we are trying to change them or tell them what to do. Remember, our anxiety can be projected onto our children. And anxiety is contagious — but so is calm. So stay in your own box, and let your child stay in his.
2. Take a transition break. Make it a habit to give your child a 20 or 30 minute break after school to help them transition back home. James and Janet Lehman explains that this will allow time for a snack and settling in and may actually help them be more open to do their home work.
3. Get assignments ahead of time. If you have a child with concentration issues or one that has been diagnosed with ADHD, it will be helpful to contact their teacher to find out assignments at least a week in advance. In addition, ask if you can keep an extra set of text books at home to avoid the problem of forgetting to bring books home. Dr. Bob Myers also suggests emailing your child’s teachers to make sure homework was passed in on time. For students with multiple teachers, create a group email asking if your child turned in their homework with a YES or NO reply.
4. Allow natural consequences to teach your child. Many parents ask if they should let their child fail rather than rescue them. In James Lehman’s article Why You Should Let Your Child Fail- the Benefits of Natural Consequences, he discusses ways to process this decision. Failure can also be an opportunity for growth and accountability, but ultimately, this is a decision parents need to make.
5. Don’t blame — Communicate. In her article, When Your Child Has Problems at School: 6 Tips for Parents, Janet Lehman discusses ways to work with a school for your child’s benefit. In most cases, blaming the school or a teacher is not going to help anyone, especially your child. It’s important to communicate with the school and work with them. Also remember, it’s not about you; it’s about your child.
6. Add structure to your night. Finally, James outlines a way to schedule the evening to help your child do their homework. Homework Hell? Part II: 7 Real Techniques That Work. By creating a routine and staying in the study area or checking in with them every 15 or 20 minutes, for example, you will help your child stay on task and help them feel supported rather than shackled to their books.
As with any difficult situation, keep your suggestions and assistance as positive as possible. Remember, this is your child’s job, not yours. Ask if there is anything you can do to help them rather than just jumping in. Doing too much for your child can give them the message that you don’t think they are capable of doing their work on their own. This can also negatively affect their confidence and create a dependency on parents when the goal is to have them do it independently.
And remember: breathe.
Holly Fields has worked with children with emotional and physical disabilities for more than 15 years in the home, at school, and in rehabilitation settings, as well as therapeutic riding programs. She has been with Legacy Publishing Company on the Parental Support Line since 2011. Holly has a Masters Degree in Special Education. She has two adult children, two rescue dogs and one cat.