School & Learning
By Carol Brady, PH.D.
Why parents should check in with teachers halfway through the school year and adjust their parenting skills to ensure academic and social success.
Is your learning-disabled child getting along with his teachers and his classmates? Is she developing strong friendships? Enjoying her after-school activities?
No matter how your son or daughter is faring, winter break is a perfect time to take stock — and to think about parenting strategies that will make the second half of the school year even more rewarding and productive than the first.
Here are a few points to consider:
Finding out whom your child spends time with will give you a better idea of her social and academic progress. Ask the teacher whom your child eats lunch with, if she raises her hand to ask questions, if he’s keeping his desk neat.
Don’t hesitate to share your concerns as soon as they arise. Some teachers are happy to receive calls or e-mail from parents. Others prefer to send notes back and forth in children’s folders. However you communicate, let the teacher know how much you appreciate her help and insight.
Spending time with parents and siblings is essential for reinforcing social skills — exercising self-control, sharing, expressing feelings, reacting to failure, and so on. It also gives parents an opportunity to give kids positive feedback about good behavior.
Soccer on Wednesdays, karate on Fridays, Scouts on Saturdays…sound familiar? Extracurricular activities are a fun way for kids to learn key social skills, such as taking turns and sharing. But children, like grownups, need some unstructured time to rest and regroup.
One young patient of mine was signed up for a different after-school activity each day of the week. By the time Friday rolled around, she was exhausted. She talked it over with her parents and decided to drop everything but drama and art — her favorite activities. She became happier and more agreeable — and so did the rest of the family.
Think about which activities make sense for your child. Some kids with ADHD have trouble with sports that require close teamwork and intense concentration, like soccer or basketball. Such kids might fare better with swimming, tennis, or another individual sport.
Excessive down time can also be troublesome. Long stretches on Saturday and Sunday can turn into “hot spots” for kids who are accustomed to the school day’s structure. Taking a trip to the movies or a museum — or simply enjoying a favorite DVD at home — can go a long way toward keeping a child on track over the weekend. Of course, it’s also important that your child has friends to play with. It used to be easy to scare up a play date on short notice. These days, parents and kids alike are so booked up that it pays to plan days, or even weeks, in advance.
Give some thought to what you need, as well. A vacation for just you and your spouse? A babysitter who’s “on call” one night a week? An occasional massage or a new outfit might help. Parents who take care of their own needs find it easier to take care of their child’s.