In It For Health

Where health and psychology intersect

Posts Tagged ‘school’

A Teachable Moment: Make the most of moving up

Posted by Dr. Susan on May 6, 2012

The month of May is all about graduations, moving up ceremonies and commencements. It is a time to feel a little sad about “how fast they grow up”, and to feel joyous about the wonderful milestones and accomplishments. This year I have, a child graduating from high school, another from middle school, and two nieces leaving elementary school!

Whether your child is facing a significant graduation, or simply moving from one grade to the next, this time of year is filled with mixed feelings, not only for you, but for your child as well. You might be surprised to learn, that not all kids are excited or happy about leaving a school, grade or teacher. Many are sad to leave the classroom in which they have accomplished so much, or the routine to which they have become accustomed. They may miss a teacher with whom they have formed a strong relationship, and they often worry that they won’t have friends in their class next year. Of course, some kids make the transition easily and are excited to move on and up! Never the less, just about every child feels some small worry and ambivalence about transitioning. In order to help your child face the transition in a positive and optimistic manner, it is important to be aware of the feelings that he or she may be experiencing. Here are a few ideas that will help you and your child say goodbye to this school year in a positive and optimistic way:

Focus on facts: Remind your child about all that he learned during this school year, and point out that next year will be just as productive. For example, this year he may have read his first chapter book, but next year, he’ll read a whole series! This year he learned how to play basketball, but next year he’ll be a comfortable part of the team. The more you focus on positive milestones to reach in the upcoming year, the easier it will be for your child to be excited, rather than ambivalent.

Make memories: Saying goodbye to people and places is a natural part of life, and one that your child will confront many, many times over the course of a lifetime. It is important to validate your child’s sad feelings and help her cope with them. Give her a camera and encourage her to take it to school and take pictures and video that will document the building, classroom, teachers and classmates. Help her create an album or scrapbook with the pictures that she can keep as a positive reminder of this school year.

Encourage emotion: Most kids have been socialized (by the media and their peers) to believe that they should be thrilled that school is ending. However, many children and teens enjoy the learning, the structure, and the time with friends, much more than they value a long vacation. However, they keep these feelings hidden because they don’t think it is ‘normal’ or ‘cool’ to feel sad about school ending. You can help your child understand his feelings, but reminding him that all feelings are normal and that it is okay to be upset about school ending. The more opportunities your child has to talk about his feelings, the more easily he will make the transition.

You should not be embarrassed to talk about your feelings as your child grows up. It can be beneficial to talk to other parents in order to share feelings about your child (and you) reaching these milestones. Remember that all feelings are ‘normal’!

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Is your child enjoying school this year? It’s not to early to assess.

Posted by Dr. Susan on October 4, 2011

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 then address them successfully.

 

#1: School

  • Does your      child enjoy school, speak positively about her teacher, and feel good      about her successes?
  • Does your      child complete class work successfully most of the time? 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 ‘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.

 

#2: Social life

  • Does your      child report feeling content with her social life? Does she have healthy      friendships (respect for each other)? Does she spend time with friends      outside of school?
  • 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.

 

#3: Daily Routine

  • Does your      child manage his daily routine—dressing, eating, bathing, activities,      bedtime—with no more than age-appropriate assistance?
  • Does your      child enjoy her extracurricular activities? 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 the 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.

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It may be time to find your child’s special talent…or not.

Posted by Dr. Susan on September 4, 2011

The start of the school year brings enthusiasm. A new class, friends and experiences are all exciting. Many kids can’t wait to try every activity introduced by teachers and peers. So, should you let your child try it all or is it better to encourage him to stick with one or two areas he already enjoys, and in which he may already show signs of excelling?

It can be tempting to let your child try every new activity. After all childhood is the best time to explore and grow—and there’s no way for her to discover a passion without trying many things. On the other hand, too much diversification can make it difficult for a child to immerse herself fully in a new experience and it can become confusing and stressful for her.

So, is it possible to encourage exploration and find your child’s passion, without her becoming overwhelmed and distracted?  Yes! Here are four simple steps that will give your child opportunities to explore, yet still build upon current passions, talents and interests:

  1. Nurture passion and interest. If your child shows an interest in, or talent for any given activity, support this by enrolling him in a class, after-school activity or school club that nurtures the interest. Pick one area of passion on which to focus. If an activity is seasonal (like a sport or a school play), you can have a replacement activity once the season is over. The replacement need not be another ‘passion’, but can be a new area that your child wants to explore (see #3 below). Stick to one area of passion at a time, or your child will become overwhelmed and lose interest in everything.
  2. Balance is essential. Kids younger than ten don’t usually need more than two days a week to work at their area of interest. More than this can cause burnout and possibly an eventual rejection of the activity. In addition, make sure there is time for homework, play and exploration of other areas. Older children may become more intensely involved in an activity they love or that requires greater commitment to be competitive. This type of commitment is admirable and should be encouraged—but not at the cost of eating, sleeping, school work or a social life. As the parent, you must make sure your child is physically and emotionally healthy—even if she is an Olympic athlete or superstar in the making!
  3. Encourage participation in a new activity. This can be a sport or creative art that your child has never tried, or even a less structured activity like baking or magic. Ask him to commit at least two or three months to the activity. This is enough time to achieve an initial level of mastery, so that the activity feels more like fun than work. After this period, he can decide whether he wants to continue or move on to something new.
  4. Resist the urge to jump on everyone else’s ‘activity bandwagon’. Your child may come home each week with something new to try. Make a list of these activities and explain that she can try one at a time, giving each one at least a couple of months to see if she likes it. You’ll likely find that she’ll lose interest in many of the ideas on the list after her initial ‘nagging’. If you stick to these four tips, your child is sure to become well-rounded while still discovering her passions and talents.

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It’s almost school time, but be in the moment right now!

Posted by Dr. Susan on August 4, 2011

As the stores begin stocking back-to-school clothing and notebooks, it’s hard not to start thinking about the end of summer. Before we know it, school will be back in swing, and the barefoot, carefree, sunny days will be long gone…sigh!

Of course, it is important to plan ahead in order to get school supplies at a great sale price! In addition, it’s important to help your child get accustomed to the idea that school, routines, hectic schedules and cooler weather, will all be here soon.

But…before boxing up the bathing suits and taking out the sweaters, let’s not rush into the fall and winter. It’s very important to teach kids the value of living in the moment and appreciating the experience at hand, before rushing ahead to the next thing. So, please, take the time to really enjoy the last weeks of summer together with your child. There are many different ways to live in the moment, right now. and here are just a few tips to help you do it:

  • Resist the urge to unpack and try fall clothing on your child before the first day of school. It may be convenient for you to see if your child has grown a size over the summer, but for kids, it’s a sign to move on to the next thing. Rather, wait until a week or so before school starts. This will give you and your child a little time to plan without rushing the summer along.
  • Limit school supply shopping with your child to one or two specific outings—don’t make it the focus of every day until school starts. If there’s a lot to get done, do some of it without your child so that she can continue to be in the summer mode.
  • Spend even less time than usual watching TV, or watch recorded shows so that you can fast forward through the commercials. TV ads for back-to-school products become overwhelmingly prolific in August. This advertising pressure can be stressful for you and your child, pushing you out of summer mode before you are ready.
  • Encourage your child to stay focused on the summer fun at hand by limiting conversations about school to once a day—at bedtime or first thing in the morning.
  • Regularly ask your child to name activities or experiences that she or he has enjoyed, or is looking forward to enjoying this summer. Discussing these will help you and your child stay focused on the summer “moment” in which you are still living.
  • When your child is in earshot, spend as little time as possible talking about back-to-school with other adults (in person or on the phone). Your child will pick up on the conversation and it will make it more difficult for him to focus on enjoying the rest of the summer.  
  • As the end of summer truly arrives (and teacher assignments arrive in the mail) plan one or two really fun summer activities. Even as you are preparing for the transition into school, remind your child that there are still days left of summer to appreciate; time to run through the sprinkler barefoot and eat that last piece of watermelon.

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Less Stress for Back to School Success

Posted by Dr. Susan on August 24, 2009

the transition of going back to school can cause anxiety and be a bit scary for kids…and parents. Parents and kids can have less stress for back to school success by following the tips in this article: http://bit.ly/POPTg. Have a great start to the school year!

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They’re so worried about music…but our kids still lag behind in basics!

Posted by Dr. Susan on June 16, 2009

This study reports the unsurprising fact that U.S. students lag behind in their knowldege of the Arts. While this is upsetting, it doesn’t worry me nearly as much as the the fact that our schools continue to be sub-par in even the most basic areas of producing students who can read and do math. And, in fact that ‘No Child Left Behind’ has done nothing except force mediocrity upon those students who has even the slightest hope of exelling, because they are now forced to spend all their time studying for monotonous, mundane and  unsatisfying state tests.

Teachers have lost any ability to be creative, school districts have become corrupt in order to satisfy the need to meet state standards.

Real reform would not only bring back the arts, it would over haul the entire system including making school administrators and teachers perform to higher standards than the trappings of tenure require of them. Then maybe our students would be competing with the rest of the world.

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Even teens who THINK they’re overweight are at risk for suicide!

Posted by Dr. Susan on May 19, 2009

A huge study,  published in the Journal of Adolescent Health, finds that both BOYS and GIRLS who either are, or think they are overweight, are more likely to attempt suicide. This tells us two things:

1. We need to develop better social, school and peer supports for overweight kids and teens as well as those who have poor body images and don’t need to lose weight.

2. We need to become more effective at helping those kids who need to lose weight do so.

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Teens think they are perfect, even if no-one else does (except their parents, of course!)

Posted by Dr. Susan on November 13, 2008

For many years now, I (and many other mental health professionals) have been telling parents that it is important to balance praise with real life! Not every picture your child paints is perfect; not every poem she writes is unbelievable, and he doesn’t always play the best game of soccer ever. Sometimes your child is less than perfect and needs to know this–it is part of growing up. It will help him learn to grow as a person. Now, here is the research to prove it. This study demonstrates that teens today have self-esteems that are out of whack with reality! Basically they have become too self confidence and have lost touch with the real-life abilities. How unpleasant for the rest of us that have to deal with them in the real world. So, parents…there is still time: teach your child and teen that it’s fine to be confident, but it’s NOT cool to be bossy, self-important, smug and obnoxious. No-one other than you will put up with it in the real world!

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But WHY are older kids exercising less?

Posted by Dr. Susan on July 18, 2008

A new study finds that as kids they enter their teens, the rate of exercise drops off. I wonder if the researchers have taken a close look at the lives of teenagers and their environments. I’m quite confident that a significant part of the reason that exercise decreases is because once kids leave elementary school the amount of mandatory physical education they require begins to drop precipitously in many school districts. Instead schools are focused solely on academics. In addition, as kids enter middle and high school, intramural sports fall by the wayside. Whereas your little kid could play soccer, basketball or baseball no matter how talented he or she was, by twelve years old, all schools care about is competition. Intramurals no longer exist so kids who want to play ‘just for the fun of it’ are out of luck. Their opportunity for organized exercise dries up almost overnight, along with an entire social experience. So let’s not point fingers at the kids. Once again, its time for the systems in place to help us out and provide options to support our kids.

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A twist on teens who smoke

Posted by Dr. Susan on May 12, 2008

I just read this study which gives parents yet another headache to worry about–but an important one, worthy of concern and particularly worthy of discussing with your teenager. It finds that there is an increase in college students who smoke hookahs–you know water pipes–Alice in Wonderland style–for some people, perhaps otherwise known as water bongs. The tobacco passes through flavored water. Hookah bars are cropping up all over major (and even smaller) cities, further adding a ‘coolness’ factor to the activity, not to mention somehow making it seem okay. But the truth–that most teens (and many adults) don’t realize–is that hookah smoking is NO SAFER than smoking tobacco in any other form. It’s just as harmful to your body despite seeming more natural and  somehow ‘filtered’.

Another important bit of info–lots of high school kids are also taking up hookah smoking–in fact, I’d say the many start in high school and continue in college. So, while the article discussed here talks about interventions with college students, I’m much more concerned about parents finding out how their high schoolers are spending their weekends. I know many who hang out at hookah bars, getting hooked on tobacco. Schools should be including it in drug ed. programs and parents should be talking about it at the family dinner table along with all the cigarettes, alcohol and drugs.

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