Homework: Revisit habits for a successful school year
8/15/2022 by Hannah Mulholland, L.I.C.S.W., M.S.W., and Nikki Rose, L.I.C.S.W., M.S.W.
School is on the horizon, making it a wonderful time to revisit goals and reflect on good habits — for kids and families. Families and communities play a vital role in the school success of children.
Here are some tips for establishing habits that will help your child with common school-related issues, in and out of the classroom.
Get enough sleep.
Getting the right amount of rest — 9–11 hours for kids ages 6–13 and 8–10 hours for older kids — is an important building block for school success. Aim for consistent wake-up and bedtimes.
Turn off screens at least one hour before bedtime. Charge electronics outside the bedroom to avoid nighttime disruptions. It's especially helpful for children when caregivers model good screen habits — and it will improve their sleep, as well.
Kids of all ages may feel anxious about making friends and thriving at school and in the community.
- Acknowledge your child's concerns and talk about strategies to deal with specific worries. Children are more likely to stay calm in challenging situations if their caregivers model calm behavior.
- Offer reassurance that your child can handle the situation. A reminder of past successes, such as when your daughter did well on a test or your son made a new friend, can boost confidence and calm nerves.
- Talk through challenging scenarios to prepare your child should similar situations be encountered outside the home.
- Use routines such as family meals to stay connected and provide opportunities to discuss your child's successes and challenges.
Helping your child set goals related to effort — not performance — can decrease school stress. It's especially difficult for kids to put things in perspective, so they benefit from parents sharing their own school experiences.
Pursue a healthy body image.
Many students feel pressure to look a certain way. Media images, peers and caregivers affect how they feel about their bodies. Make your influence a positive one.
- Focus on your child's achievements rather than appearance, and help your child do the same.
- Encourage healthy eating habits, physical activity and positive friendships to help your child develop a healthy body image.
Sports can be a wonderful way for children to feel good physically and make positive connections with peers. However, be wary of programs that emphasize winning over the enjoyment of playing and the importance of teamwork.
Be aware of bullying.
Bullying is more common than adults think. A child who is being bullied may have worsening grades or show less interest in going to school. Children who bully are modeling learned behavior.
Children should be encouraged to talk with a trusted adult if they see bullying or other unsafe behavior happening at school or online. Prejudice-based bullying is prevalent and particularly harmful. It helps when families discuss and model the value of diverse perspectives at home, including treating others with respect online and offline.
Find out if your child's school uses an anti-bullying curriculum, which can promote positive school environments.
Maintain a homework routine and practice time management.
Work with your child to identify a homework routine, including a consistent time and place.
- Avoid the distractions of phones or TV.
- Prioritize assignments based on due dates and how much effort they require.
- For some kids, it works best to first complete an assignment they enjoy least. Others gain a sense of accomplishment by first completing assignments they like best.
- Kids also benefit from breaking large assignments into smaller, more manageable tasks and using to-do lists.
If your child is struggling with homework, don't just provide the answer. Instead, work with your child to identify a solution to the problem. Encourage your child to speak with teachers when questions arise. Having a homework buddy can build self-sufficiency and confidence.
Create a schedule to balance academic, extracurricular and social activities. As part of the plan for the upcoming week, include what needs to be done and what your child hopes to do. Identify the amount of time for each task and work with your child to create and set priorities.
Preparing the night before — picking out clothes, packing lunches and getting backpacks ready — can make mornings less rushed.
But remember, unscheduled time can be the most fun of all.
Create a family media plan.
Screen time consumes more of the day. Phones, tablets and video games compete with other important activities. Distracted learning results in poorer academic performance.
Create a family media plan to make sure enough time is available for other important activities, such as sleep, exercise, homework and play. Shut off screens during mealtimes and while driving. Instead, use that time to check in on the ups and downs of your child's day.
Assess parenting goals.
As your family navigates the school years, keep in mind that the ultimate goal of parenting is to raise independent, responsible adults. To do that, children need support and encouragement.
But they also need opportunities to make their own decisions — and their own mistakes. That doesn't mean you should never intervene.
If you suspect your child is being bullied, abusing alcohol or drugs, or struggling with an eating disorder, step in and get help. But for many less serious issues, the best solution may be the one your child comes up with.
Stay up to date with well-child exams.
Well-child exams aren't just for infants and toddlers. Review Mayo Clinic's recommended child and adolescent exam schedule to make sure your child is immunized and has met developmental milestones. At these exams, your primary care provider should assess your child's nutrition, safety and emotional well-being.
Hannah Mulholland, L.I.C.S.W., M.S.W., and Nikki Rose, L.I.C.S.W., M.S.W., are clinical social workers serving children and adolescents in Primary Care in Rochester and Kasson's Division of Integrated Behavioral Health.