However appealing an end goal is, it’s easy to get sidetracked. Help your child craft a sustainable plan. Make sure it’s:
Specific: The resolution should include your child’s goal, the skill she’s working on and how she’ll achieve it: “To become a better trumpet player by our May concert, I’ll practice 30 minutes a day.”
Measurable: She should track her progress—on a chart or in regular check-ins with you.
Attainable: The goal should be ambitious but realistic—something that will stretch your child’s skills but not overwhelm her.
Results-oriented: The resolution should explain what she’ll be able to do once she reaches her goal. For example: “Studying with a tutor twice a week will help me consistently get As in math.”
Time-bound: Your child’s resolution should specify a reasonable time frame and can include mini-goals along the way (mini-successes can be very motivating).
And another big must:
Relevance: Your child has to want to set and reach this goal! She should feel eager and committed.
What a Good Resolution Looks Like
Your child’s specific goals will depend on her challenges, abilities and interests. Here are a few examples of how you might help her refine her ideas.
Social Skills Resolution Beginning idea: “I’ll be the most popular kid in my class.” Resolution: “This year, I’ll make more friends. Twice a month, I’ll invite someone over from school or Scouts.”
Academic Resolution Beginning idea: “I’m going to get all As this year.” Resolution: “In January, I’ll get a B or better on every science quiz by studying at least 45 minutes for each one and asking my teacher for advice on studying.”
Athletic Resolution Beginning idea: “I’ll start running and make the varsity track team this spring.” Resolution: “To learn to run, I’ll download a training app. Then I’ll practice for a Valentine’s Day 5K. If I like it, I’ll find a 10K over summer break.”
Working Toward a New Year’s Goal
As your child works on achieving his resolution, she’ll also be building important skills like:
Self-reflection: “How do I want to improve this year?”
Problem-solving and self-control: “What can I do to get back on track?”
Self-esteem: “How does achieving my goal make me feel?”
Encourage her to step back and ask herself questions like these—or even discuss the answers with you—along the way. They’ll help her stay on track and get more out of the experience.
Helping Your Child Stick With It
However good her intentions—and her plan—your child may sometimes have trouble persevering. These tips can help you help her:
If your child agrees, consider joining her. You’ll make each other more accountable. “I’m also looking to exercise more this year. How about we swim together at the Y every Saturday morning?”
Don’t nag. In addition to the regular progress checks you’ve built in, ask questions and offer reminders—but in ways your child can accept. Some kids might respond well to: “I know you wanted to have someone over twice a month. Has that happened yet for February?” Others might do better with, “We don’t have any plans this weekend, if you want to have a teammate over.”
Share your own experiences. Be honest about what did and didn’t help you with your New Year’s resolutions. “I’m so glad I joined the library book club last year. It really helped me reach my daily page goal.”
Make it meaningful. Let your child work hard at her resolution. If she doesn’t achieve it, you can help make sure that her struggle is motivating, not paralyzing. Talk through how things went off-track and what she might do differently next time.
Most afternoons my children come home from school with their backpacks loaded with homework assignments. They both play multiple sports, and it’s always an ongoing struggle to find a way to get it all done before bedtime.
More often than not, it’s a losing battle. As a result, the kids are up late into the night, trying to finish those last math equations or study their spelling words. In the morning they wake up tired, only to start the cycle all over again.
Many Kids Today Juggle Homework and Sports
Most other families we know are struggling with the same problem. As our kids get older, their homework increases, while at the same time their coaches often start demanding longer and more frequent practices and training sessions.
The Experts Weigh In on the Value Factor
To help my children better navigate the co-existing demands of school and sports, I recently decided to do some research on this issue. What I discovered surprised me. I found lots of articles and blogs written by psychologists and guidance counselors addressing this very topic. Although I expected that many experts would frown upon letting kids take on so many commitments, what I found was the reverse. Many of these experts saw real value in allowing children to apply themselves to athletics and other extra curricular activities.
In addition to the many health benefits of being active, there is also much to be learned on the golf course, football field, and gymnastics floor that supplements what happens in the classroom. For instance, young athletes can get a crash course in the importance of working as a team, training to master new skills, developing effective strategies, and setting goals. Better yet, all of these lessons can actually help improve kids’ grades and study habits.
Parents Also Play a Role
In order to get these benefits, your children need to be able to handle the pressure involved. That’s where parents can help. They can play an important role in helping children manage their athletic commitments and homework and keep a clear head throughout the process.
Here is a rundown of some of the best tips I found for parents of busy kids:
Sit down with your child and make a schedule of all of your after-school commitments and figure out where homework will fit. Be creative. If time is short, it’s okay to have your child study in the car or bus on the way to a practice or to start homework during lunch or study hall. By planning ahead to fit it all in, your child won’t feel so overwhelmed.
Keep in close contact with your child to be sure he is thriving in the situation. Ask him how he feels and what he is enjoying or not enjoying. By talking with your child, you’ll get a sense of when he is in control, or when he is in over his head and may need to pare things down.
Stay on top of your child’s grades on homework and tests so you can be sure the quality of work isn’t suffering as a result of him being stretched too thin. If you find that grades are slipping, this can be a sign that it’s time to cut back for a bit.
Be sure to allocate family time for everyone to come together and bond. If evenings are too busy, you can sneak in some time on the weekend or even in the mornings. There is no rule about when you need to come together, but it’s important that school and sports don’t replace your family’s connection.
When life feels too rushed, figure out other activities your child can pass on to free up his schedule a little. Maybe he won’t be able to make it to a weekend party or special event; it’s a good lesson to learn that it’s okay not to do everything. By leaving some free time, he’ll be able to spend more quality time with family or friends and he’ll approach his sports and homework feeling refreshed.
The Need to Prioritize School Over Sports
While these tips can help you to find that precious balance between doing enough and doing too much, always keep in mind that you have to look at your individual situation. If despite your efforts your child seems to be struggling with sports and homework, don’t feel compelled to have it do it all. Your children are more likely to go on to college than they are to become a professional athlete, so if you need to make some choices of where your child should focus his attention, remember that school should always be the priority.
Parent-teacher communication plays a big role in helping your child to have a successful academic career. Since parents and teachers know different aspects of a child's personality, they must work together to solve problems or celebrate gains. Unfortunately, because teachers spend their time in the classroom with students, it may not always be easy to get in touch with your child's teacher. Knowing some of the Dos and Don'ts of parent-teacher communication can help you make that connection.
Keeping Parent-Teacher Communication Lines Open
Don't: Feel as though you're being a nuisance. Whether you have concerns, questions or just simply want to say "Great job," it's perfectly all right to get in touch with your child's teacher. That's what good parent-teacher communication is all about.
Do: Advocate for your child. His teacher may spend six hours a day with him and know him within the school setting, but you're with him the rest of the time and know him in a very different light. If there is something he needs or if something isn't going well, make yourself heard.
Don't: Wait until there's a problem to get in touch with your child's teacher.
Do: Make an effort to introduce yourself in person, in writing or over the phone, as a way to begin a good parent-teacher relationship.
Don't: Call your child's teacher during the school day and expect to be put right through to her.
Do: Let your child's teacher know what is a good way to get in touch with you and at what times. Teachers are busy teaching during the school day and often use breaks to use the bathroom, grab a quick lunch and/or prepare lesson plans. Thus, you may have to wait until after school hours to speak on the phone. However, if you let the teacher know that you can be reached via note or email or that early in the morning is a fine time to call, you have a better chance of speaking soon.
Don't: Say to the person who answers the phone "Tell her Jane Smith called" and expect the teacher to know who you are and that you would like a return call.
Do: Leave a message identifying whose parent you are and leave as much detail as you feel comfortable sharing about why you are calling. If you would like a call back, make sure to mention that in your message.
Don't: Call your child's teacher at home unless she has specifically indicated it is OK.
Do: Ask the teacher whether it's all right to reach her at home in the evening to discuss a problem your child is having. While many teachers prefer not to be disturbed at home, some don't mind and will provide their home phone number to a parent whom they know will not abuse it. If you have her home number, make sure to be respectful of the teacher's time, calling at a reasonable hour and only for urgent situations (usually problems that need addressing before the next school day).
Don't: Hesitate to request a meeting.
Do: Let your child's teacher know if you need a few face-to-face minutes with her. Just be sure to let her know why, whether you'd like other staff to be there and about how long you expect the meeting to take. That way she can set aside enough time for you.
Don't: Assume that phone calls and notes are the only way to speak with a teacher.
Do: Find out whether or not your school or school district has an intranet, which provides each teacher with a school-related email address. Email is a very quick and easy way to get in touch with a teacher and can provide a great parent-teacher communication platform in which issues or questions can be addressed without playing phone tag or setting up a meeting.
Don't: Send an unsealed note to your child's teacher and expect your son or daughter not to read it.
Do: Seal notes in an envelope or fold and staple them shut, so it's obvious if little eyes have been prying. Make sure to clearly print the teacher's name on the outside if it is for her eyes only. That way, if there is a substitute for the day the note will be set aside unread. Notes that deal with changes in transportation for the day or lunch money should be labeled as such on the outside. For example, "John's Lunch Money" or "Bus Change Information."
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Whether their summer was jam-packed with activities or filled with complaints about being bored with nothing to do, kids often have a tough time making the back-to-school transition.
Battling the Butterflies
As with any new or potentially unsettling situation — like starting school for the first time or entering a new grade or new school — allow kids time to adjust. Remind them that everyone feels a little nervous about the first day of school and that it will all become an everyday routine in no time.
Emphasize the positive things about going back to school, such as hanging out with old friends, meeting new classmates, buying cool school supplies, getting involved in sports and other activities, and showing off the new duds (or snazzy accessories if your child has to wear a uniform).
It's also important to talk to kids about what worries them and offer reassurance: Are they afraid they won't make new friends or get along with their teachers? Is the thought of schoolwork stressing them out? Are they worried about the bully from last year?
Consider adjusting your own schedule to make the transition smoother. If possible, it's especially beneficial for parents to be home at the end of the school day for the first week. But many working moms and dads just don't have that flexibility. Instead, try to arrange your evenings so you can give kids as much time as they need, especially during those first few days.
If your child is starting a new school, contact the school before the first day to arrange a visit. And ask if your child can be paired up with another student, or "buddy," and if you can be connected with other new parents. This will help both of you with the adjustment to new people and surroundings. Some schools give kids maps to use until things become more familiar.
To help ease back-to-school butterflies, try to transition kids into a consistent school-night routine a few weeks before school starts. Also make sure that they:
get enough sleep (establish a reasonable bedtime so that they'll be well-rested and ready to learn in the morning)
eat a healthy breakfast (they're more alert and do better in school if they eat a good breakfast every day)
write down the need-to-know info to help them remember details such as their locker combination, what time classes and lunch start and end, their homeroom and classroom numbers, teachers' and/or bus drivers' names, etc.
use a wall calendar or personal planner to record when assignments are due, tests will be given, extracurricular practices and rehearsals will be held, etc.
have them organize and set out what they need the night before (homework and books should be put in their backpacks by the door and clothes should be laid out in their bedrooms)
Although it's normal to be anxious in any new situation, a few kids develop real physical symptoms, such as headaches or stomachaches, associated with the start of school. If you're concerned that your child's worries go beyond the normal back-to-school jitters, speak with your child's doctor, teacher, or school counselor.