How to help your child handle school

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Published October 03, 2012

| FoxNews.com

As states work to improve schools, children are faced with more challenging course loads, standardized tests and tons of extra-curricular activities. Even preschoolers are competing to get into the best schools. 

“Schools across the country and parents across the country are fear-based, and they feel that they cannot do enough to prepare children for the next thing,” according to Anastasia Gavalas, a family life teacher and author of Wing It: Six Simple Steps to Succeed as a Modern Day Parent.

So if you’re concerned that your child’s course loads are too much, check out our experts’ tips on how to balance it all.

Get organized
If children can’t keep their assignments straight, a daily notebook can help them —and you—communicate with their teachers. The teacher can write each night’s homework assignment in the book so they knows exactly what’s expected each day.

Teach time management
Time estimation is not always a strength of kids in elementary school, according to Dr. Rochelle Harris, a pediatric clinical psychologist at Children's Mercy Hospitals and Clinics in Kansas City, Missouri. So when tackling a specific project, ask your child to estimate how long he or she thinks it will take to get it done and then compare it to how long it actually took. Then, you can help him or her learn how to work more efficiently. You may have to set time limits on each homework assignment too.

Focus on the process, not the result
According to a recent study published in the journal Learning and Individual Differences, the more parents focused on learning, the more likely kids were to be motivated in school. “If there’s an emphasis on learning as opposed to grades, you can convey to your student that you value their effort,” according to Harris, who says grades are really just a way to compare your child to his or her peers. So instead of focusing on that B in math, the message you convey to your child should be that effort, differences, and interests are what really matter.  

Make time for fun
All work and no play isn’t fun for anyone. “If kids are strictly academic focused, they’re at risk for burnout,” Harris said. Too much school work can also stunt their social and emotional development so be sure to schedule in time for extracurricular activities, social time, and down time.

Learn how to say no
Even if an extra language or an accelerated math course is available, it’s important to decide if it’s really the right choice for your child, according to Gavalas. So assess how your child is handling his or her current workload and decide together if it’s appropriate for his or her individual needs.  

Explore other options
If your child is already overwhelmed, it’s time to evaluate if the coursework is appropriate for him.  “There’s always movement in scheduling,” according to Gavalas. So if a child can’t handle the Regents or AP class, he or she can move into a less intense program. Speak with your child’s teacher or guidance counselor and come up with a plan that works. “It’s a matter of making that connection and seeing what it is your kid can handle,” she said.

Be flexible
Setting a rule that children must work on their homework for a set amount of hours right after school is not effective.  “It’s not allowing the child to take control of their feelings of anxiety and overload,” Gavalas said. Instead, trying out different routines will ease their stress and allow them to figure out which strategy works best.  

Learn from mistakes
“It’s really important for kids to have some disappointments and failures for character building,” according to Harris. So if your child underestimated his or her time or simply blew off homework, rather than resorting to punishment, it’s a great opportunity to talk about what he or she could have done to make the outcome different.

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