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Back to School: 3 Tips to Establish Structure for Your Child

Posted by Janet Lehman, MSW

Getting ready for your child to go back to school can sometimes be a battle. Switching from a summer routine into a school schedule can often lead to angry children who will resist getting of bed or doing homework. Without a doubt, the start of school is a huge headache for many parents. Why is it so hard for some kids to make the transition every time?

Kids have the summer to sleep in and do as they please with few responsibilities, so it can come as a shock when they finally have to get up early, follow a daily schedule and meet the expectations of teachers. Without structure at home, both you and your child will find the new school year full of frustration.

Here are some tips you can use to establish a healthy structure:

  1. Talk to your child about they can expect. Communicate any changes clearly so they know exactly what’s going to happen and what needs to happen. For instance, if you expect him to be up by 7 am or that all of his homework must be completed on time to help his grades, let him know. That way, everyone is on the same page about what each day looks like. Be sure to listen to your child if he has questions or concerns. Try to stay positive and be hopeful, but remain realistic.
  2. Focus on the most important problems.Maybe you have a laundry list of issues to fix; don’t try to tackle them all at once. Instead, pick out the ones that are the most important and try to work out a solution one by one. For example, if last year your child struggled to finish his homework each day, come up with a plan to help him be more successful this year. It could involve making time to sit and work on homework together, or maybe enrolling your child in an after-school study group. Talk to your child and let him know you’re on his side and are there to help. One example would be to say, “I know you don’t like math and had a hard time with it last year.  Why don’t we sit down each day after dinner and work on problems together?” If they were successful with something last year, remind your child of how well they did and build on that. For instance, you could say, “I was really impressed when you wrote down every homework assignment in your notebook so you could keep track. That really helped you get your work in on time. Let’s try that again this year.”
  3. Create a support system. Find people who can help you maintain structure and help prevent you or your child from feeling overwhelmed. It could be a teacher, guidance counselor, tutor or anyone who knows your child and can guide them academically, socially or behaviorally. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Just because the last school year was tough doesn’t mean that this one has to be.

Remember that it takes effort from your child as well as you to make the new structure work. It may be hard adjusting at first, but once you get organized, things will feel more natural. Stay positive and upbeat—remind your child that you are doing this because you care. This school year can be more successful with a little preparation and guidance on your part.


About Janet Lehman, MSW

Janet Lehman, MSW, has worked with troubled children and teens for over 30 years. A veteran social worker, she specializes in child behavior issues — ranging from anger management and oppositional defiance to more serious criminal behavior in teens. In addition, Janet gained a personal understanding of child learning and behavior challenges from her son, who struggled with learning disabilities in school. She is co-creator of The Total Transformation® Program, The Complete Guide To Consequences™, Getting Through To Your Child™, and Two Parents One Plan™.

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