Here we are, back-to-school, and already almost two months into sixth grade! My son is full-time in person (masked) at his new middle school, making new friends, learning new things, showing signs of growth and maturity. There were moments during the last year and a half when it seemed like we’d never get here.
If you’re like me, you spent a lot of time and energy worrying about this new school year, given the 18 months prior we all had to endure. And while I’m thrilled (so far/knock on wood/fingers crossed) with how things are going, I want to make sure I’m as prepared as I can be for any challenges that come along. Because one thing every parent can be sure of is that there will be challenges.
I recently attended a webinar hosted by Responsibility.org that addressed some of the concerns many parents and caregivers are facing. Here are just a few of the questions (and answers) that spoke to me most.
I was very involved in my child’s education when they were learning at home. How can/should I be involved be now?
While many parents (me included) are beyond relieved to relinquish our roles as tutor, hall monitor, and zoom participation overlord, it’s left us wondering what our function is now. I saw how much my son struggled with distance learning, and my biggest concern this year has been how he would do now that he’s back in an actual classroom — and how I can most help him succeed.
There’s no definitive answer for this, as it varies for each child, parent, teacher, and school. But you know your child better than anyone; look at the ways they struggled at home, at the ways they thrived. Talk to your child’s teacher or school counselor and catch them up on the last 18 months. Ask for updates, particularly in the areas you’re most concerned about.
And while the sales are long gone, we need to think of back-to-school as a season and not just a day or a week. Especially this year, as there is so much re-acclimating to do. Give your kids, their teachers, and yourself time — it’s a new experience for all of us.
During lockdown, many kids not only experienced learning loss, but also a lag in social development. How do I address my child’s social-emotional learning as they transition back to in-person school?
First, a definition of social-emotional learning (SEL): The process through which children (and adults) gain and apply the knowledge, attitudes, and skills necessary to understand and manage emotions, set and achieve goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain positive relationships, and make responsible decisions.
Studies have shown overwhelmingly positive outcomes when kids develop strong emotional and social skills. It can lead to higher education attainment, lower dependence on social safety nets, lower dependence on drugs and alcohol, and an overall increased well-being. What other skill set produces such amazing results?
At home it all comes down to modeling. You are your child’s first and greatest role model. And honesty is key — sharing honestly the ways you’ve both succeeded and struggled, whether it’s with relationships, work, or mental/physical health. The goal is not to create perfect children that grow into perfect adults. The goal is to teach them how to cope with the inevitable ups and downs of life, and to come out the other side stronger and wiser people.
As for school, it’s important to both ask questions and give support. Check in with the teacher or counselor on how your child is adapting to being back in school, how they’re getting along with friends and classmates, how they’re handling conflict. And let them know they have your support; in whatever way you can give it. Whether that’s reinforcing lessons at home, sharing positive feedback with them, or advocating for them with administration or school boards when needed.
I know it’s an overused statement, but we are truly in this together. It’s not a competition between parents and teachers to see who’s been stretched further during the pandemic — it’s a partnership that needs strengthening for the sake of our kids.
As my child matures, how do I stay involved in their educational experience without overstepping?
My kid is now a middle schooler, with high school on the horizon! I’ve seen an uptick in him flexing his independence, yet still needing plenty of reminders, check-ins, and follow-ups. However, I also want to allow my child the space to be more responsible and autonomous. How do we as parents strike that balance?
There are ways to stay connected and informed without smothering your kids or overstepping boundaries. This can be particularly challenging as kids move into middle and high school, as there are more teachers involved, and often more school infrastructure to navigate.
Sometimes parents can be intimidated by teachers, administrators, or just school in general. However, the best solution is to introduce yourself and ask clear, direct questions: “How can I reach out to you? What should I be reaching out to you for? How can you help me support my child?”
And if your child’s teacher isn’t responding the way you’d like — or you’re not clear which teacher to talk to — reach out to the school counselor. They’re typically connected with all aspects of the school (teachers, administration, health workers, etc.) and can either direct you to the right person or be that touchpoint you need to stay informed and involved.
Thanks again to Responsibility.org for an informative conversation, featuring the wisdom and insight of an amazing panel of experts:
- Brian Coleman, LCPC: 2019 National School Counselor of the Year, Counseling Department Chair, Jones College Prep High School
- Steve Mesler: Co-Founder and CEO of Classroom Champions
- Brian Platzer: Teacher, co-author of Taking the Stress Out of Homework, and co-founder of Teachers Who Tutor | NYC
- Ashley Powers: Director, Social-Emotional Learning Coalition, Discovery Education
I hope this has been as helpful to you as it was to me; here’s to a successful, healthy school year!
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Responsibility.org is all about talking to your kids about all kinds of things, including responsible alcohol choices. Please check out their site for valuable info for parents and non-parents alike. An important fact: parents are the leading influence on a child’s decision to drink (or not drink). When conversations about alcohol between parents and kids increase, underage drinking decreases.
As a brand ambassador for Responsibility.org, I am being compensated to write this post. However, all opinions are my own.