What do you do when you need something that you know nothing about? Bring in the experts!

Conferences for elementary-aged students can be a stressful time for parents. But that’s where my knowledge tapers off.

Luckily, this week I have a guest post from a fellow organizer, Andrea Shirey of Sigh of Relief Organizing. Not only is Andrea an organizer – she is a Mom and former elementary school teacher!

 

In most schools, we’ve just finished the first trimester and you’ve gotten a chance to chat with your child’s teacher. For some parents it’s a time to see the hard work their child has completed. Look at the art projects, check out their desks and lockers, talked with their teacher about progress, a fun and proud time.

For other parents, it’s a stressful time. A time to hear about struggles that their child might be experiencing. Perhaps their child needs to improve in one or more areas of their academic career. Although it’s your child’s conference, it may feel more like a parental performance review. Is your child tardy or absent often? Do they struggle to turn in their completed work, or is it not always completed? Do they need help with organizing their thoughts or with specific learning skills? Did you leave feeling disheartened? This article’s for you.

You (and Your Attitude) Matter

Supporting your child’s education must be a team effort between your child, the teachers, school staff and yourself. You are crucial. Showing a positive attitude and interest in learning is key. One parent brought her third grader to meet me on “Back to School Night.” She walked in and loudly explained that she hated school and never “got” math and that she didn’t expect her daughter to either. Whoa. Way to set the expectations low. It was so frustrating to see this excited little girl hear from her mom that it was a lost cause. Your attitude matters!

Create Good Habits

There are so many ways to help your child succeed! Take care of their physical needs first; make sure your child is eating a healthy breakfast. If you don’t have time in the morning, have your child eat when they get to school. There’s no way to learn on an empty stomach! Make sure your child is getting good sleep and enough of it. Children between the ages of five and twelve need 10-­11 hours each night! Teens need about nine and a half hours.

Homework Routine

I ask to see my kids’ homework folders right away. They need to put their folders and any notes on the kitchen table. After unpacking their bags, I give them some downtime and let them read or veg out for a while. When it’s time to get to work be present when your kids are studying. The last thing a struggling student needs is to be sent to their room to plow through homework. I like to read a book, do a crossword puzzle or wash the dishes. It gives me a chance to answer questions or give them reminders to stay on task. Keep all necessary supplies in one area and set the mood for success. Not everyone likes to sit at the table in complete silence. If they need to stand or sprawl on the floor, be flexible. Finally, once homework is done for the evening, it needs to go into their bags immediately!

Show, Don’t Tell

It’s no secret that little eyes are watching. Kids will emulate your behavior, positive or negative. If your child is struggling with reading, show them your love of reading. Keep different kinds of books, magazines, newspapers around. Carve time to read before bed or waiting during school pick up. Let your kids catch you reading and casually mention interesting things you learned while reading.

(Ok, tell them, but don’t lecture.)

Do they struggle with math? Show them how you use math in your career or daily life. Don’t be overtly preachy, but mention to them how you use different academic skills. Be sure to tell them when you struggle and how you work through and persevere. These are all life skills that our kids need to learn. Hearing about your struggles will help them acknowledge their own.

Bring in Experts

If you are making sure your child is getting good sleep and healthy food, you are creating a good routine of healthy study habits and you are showing them your interest in learning, your child will probably be making some gains academically. Keep in communication with your child’s teacher and welcome suggestions for further improvements. If these subtle changes aren’t enough, bring in the experts!

Many middle school and high school students need volunteer hours for graduation. If your child needs homework help, line up a student to meet at the library for some tutoring. Academic centers like Sylvan or Kumon Learning Centers can help boost skills and confidence. Professionals like Greg Smith and his staff at Northwest Educational Services can tailor a plan especially for your child’s needs. Don’t ignore problems, bring in the experts!

If the most recent parent/teacher conference was less than enjoyable, consider these tips for helping your child. Remember, your involvement (and attitude) about academics is crucial.

Andrea Shirey is a professional organizer and productivity coach and owner of Sigh of Relief Organizing.  She specializes in helping families and small businesses turn their chaos into calm.  Andrea will organize your physical, digital and mental clutter!  She lives in Renton with her awesome husband, two energetic boys and adorable dog.