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January 2020 Counselor's Tips

I hope that everyone has had a relaxing and restful Winter Break. This time of year has always been an important time for me to regroup, recharge, and reaffirm relationships with the people that matter the most to my heart. I hope that all of you have had the opportunity to reconnect with your children, families, and friends over this break and are ready to dive back into the spring semester. After two weeks at home, with often busy or stressful activities occurring, it can be challenging and tiring to return to the routine of school. Here are some tips to help support your student and yourself:

  1. Routines - Children thrive on routines and consistent expectations. You can give your child a sense of structure and safety as we return to school by being mindful of their routines. Keep the following in mind:

    • Nighttime and Bedtime - Children and adolescents need a minimum of nine hours of nightly sleep to perform their best. Lack of sleep can affect mood, motivation, behavior, school performance, and relationships. Studies have shown that children who have a calming nighttime routine and a consistent bedtime have higher self-esteem than their inconsistent peers. One of the best ways that parents can ensure that their children are getting enough sleep is to have a consistent and calming nighttime routine that helps their child “learn” to be sleepy. Reading a book together, taking baths or showers at night, and turning off electronics and screens at least one hour before bedtime are a couple of ways to help unwind before sleep.

    • Morning Routines and Breakfast - Just like nighttime routines set children up for a restful sleep cycle, morning routines can set them up for a successful day. Children who have a consistent wake time, a leisurely start to the morning, and a healthy breakfast are able to focus better in school, exhibit fewer behavioral struggles, and are less likely to be overweight. Students who are rushed through the morning exhibit more stress throughout their day and students who skip breakfast can exhibit tiredness, lack of focus, and behavioral struggles at school. Make sure that your child's wake time is early enough to allow them to complete all of their morning tasks without rushing. Avoid television and electronics in the morning, as these can distract from more necessary activities. We, as parents can plan to set our kids up for success each and every morning.

  2. Homework vs. Playtime - Just like children thrive on consistent wake/sleep structure, they also do better with a consistent homework time and opportunities to actively play every day. 

    • Play FIRST - Young children especially need a break from the rigor of academic work before they are ready to complete homework. Our children have been hard at work all day and need an outlet for their pent up energy when they are released from school. Encourage some kind of active play activity after school that allows your child the physical stimulation and mental break that they need to regroup before starting on homework. Some children participate in sports, clubs, or other activities. These are amazing but cannot take the place of free play when children can stretch their imaginations and their bodies in their own ways.

    • Homework - Make sure that your child has a comfortable space to complete their homework where anything that they might need is easily accessible to them and there are few, if any, distractions. As children get older, they should be increasingly independent in their homework - after all, it is the practice or reinforcement for something that they already learned at school. If homework is a struggle, keep the “10 minute” rule in mind. A student should be spending no more than approximately 10 minutes per grade on their homework (not including reading with parents or for pleasure!). In some circumstances, especially at the older grades or if something is difficult for the student, there may be a little more or a little less homework, but here are some approximate guidelines: 

      • Kindergarten & 1st grade - 10-20 minutes

      • 2nd & 3rd grades - 20-30 minutes

      • 4th &5th grade - 40-50 minutes

      • 6th, 7th, & 8th grades - 60-80 minutes

If your child is spending significantly more time than this on homework, they may need to break it into smaller chunks, take a longer break before starting, troubleshoot their homework space, or talk to the teacher about additional support. You know your child, please reach out if you are seeing a significant struggle with homework.

  1. Keep Trying - Re-establishing routines after an extended break can be difficult. Children, just like adults, are creatures of habit and even two weeks off the school routine can give them time to build new routines. It will take time, persistence, and patience to get back on track. Put yourself in their shoes and show your empathy and compassion, but stand firm in your expectations. There will always be things that throw off our routines, all we can do is acknowledge the struggle and keep trying.