When your Child is Having a Hard Time at School

Issues at schoolBy Abby Bordner

When our children go to school there is a mix of emotions: excitement, relief, fear, concern and anticipation. Depending on the temperament of your child , you may have some expectations about how your child will adapt to the environment of school. Some of our children jump right in, find their place, make friends and acclimate without much difficulty.

This blog is for the parents of kids who don’t adapt so easily. When our kids are having a hard time at school, it can cause heart break, concern and worry. First of all, just listen. Ask questions and hear from your child about what is at the heart of a problem at school, who your child has identified as an ally and how they are managing. Resist the urge to react, want to rush into the school and protect your child from any difficulty he may be having. When we override their resourcefulness and rush in to rescue our children, we are actually depriving them of a chance to work through a difficult situation, identify solutions and feel the satisfaction of overcoming a problem.

School not only is a place for study, but also a rich environment for social and emotional learning. Everyday your child gets opportunities to learn about authority figures, friends, social interactions and problem solving. When your child is having a hard time at school, we want to listen to him, offer support and confidence that he can get through it.

  1. Talk to your child’s teacher. Teachers can be a terrific resource for families and school related problems. Enlist their support. Bring your child with you to a meeting with the teacher so they can be part of the conversation. Describe the problem to the teacher and let your child talk about it, too (avoid being angry, blaming or accusing). Ask her advice. Set up more regular communication with the teacher for a period of time while you’re working on the problem. Make an agreement between your child and the teacher that he can go to her if the problem is happening. Some children just want to know they can go to the teacher and spend some time close to her while he manages the problem. Help your child know the teacher understands the problem and will help if he needs it.
  2. Ask the teacher if there are any children in the classroom that she feels are a good match for friendship with your child. The teacher can identify kids that your child may not already be friends with but could  be a positive relationship. Contact that child’s parents and set up a play date.
  3. Rehearse with your child how they can handle a difficult situation. Give them ideas of what they can do or say when the problem is happening. You can even incorporate ideas of using deep breathing as a way to calm down, visualize a protective barrier around her body to prevent her from getting hurt or saying a prayer to give her courage.
  4. Give your child lots of connection at home. When your child feels supported and loved they are more able to deal with problems and find solutions.
  5. Support friendships that help your child feel confident. Make sure your child spends time with friends that treat her well and that she enjoys spending time with. These positive friendships help give your child a reference point for healthy social behavior.
  6. Give your child learning opportunities outside of school. Give your child opportunities to learn more about the things that interest him: at the natural history museum, in nature, in books, by building things and exploring the world around them. School is not the only (or the best) environment for your children to pursue their interests. They need your help to find learning experiences that they enjoy! Support many ways of learning about their interests.

When our children go to school, it’s one of many ventures into the world. People will present your child with rewards and challenges that give him life skills to manage stress, frustration and relationships. We want our children to make good decisions about relationships and how they manage social interactions.

Do your children experience challenges at school? What are they? Post your comments.

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