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"Back to School": Why talking about school is important & Strategies for starting that conversation

by Michael Bank (Red Clay Education Association)

The start of a new school year can mean different things to different people.  For teachers, it means planning lessons and helping a new class of children to grow, learn, and succeed.  For parents, it may bring thoughts of overseeing homework, making lunches, and perhaps some peace and quiet at home.  For children returning to school, it may bring about feelings ranging from happiness and excitement to worry and confusion.  What can you do to help ensure a great year for your child?

There is nothing more important than communication.  Encourage your child to share things about their day.  The younger the child is when you start this routine, the easier it will be to continue it as they get older.  Try to ask questions that cannot be answered with “yes” or “no.”  For example:

“What was the best part of your day?”

“What is something new you learned?”

“How did you do on your test?”

School can be a stressful experience for some children.  The desire to get good grades, social pressures, and/or bullying can cause feelings of stress and depression in your child.  How can you know if your child is having difficulties coping in school?  Here are some possible warning signs:

• Changes in eating habits (skipping meals or binge eating)

• Difficulty sleeping or frequent nightmares

• Declining grades or loss of interest in school

• Changes in mood (increased irritability; more quiet than usual)

• Frequent complaints of illness, either real or imaginary

• Avoidance of social situations, loss of friendships

If you see any of these indicators or other behaviors which are not typical for your child you should get involved.

1. Do not ignore what you see or your intuition.

2. Talk to your son or daughter - be supportive and share your concerns,  listen as opposed to lecturing, validate their feelings

3. Contact your child’s teacher, school counselor, and/or principal.  Ask if they have seen any behavioral changes and if they can investigate your concerns.

4. Get outside help if appropriate.  Ask your school or pediatrician for suggestions.

You can also help to make school a great experience by having a positive attitude.  Praise your child for their efforts, not only for their successes.  Show interest in what they are learning and check their homework each evening, offering help and suggestions.  Be positive about the school and their education.  Have a wonderful year with your child!

Michael Bank is a school counselor at Warner Elementary School in the Red Clay Consolidated School District.  In addition to his work at Warner, Michael is DSEA's NEA Director and is an active member of the Red Clay Education Association.