Psychologically Speaking: How to make the school year great

Now is the time when you, as a parent, need to become even more involved. There are lots of things you can do to help your children have a good year.

little red schoolhouse 8 (photo credit: )
little red schoolhouse 8
(photo credit: )
Dear Dr. Batya, My two older girls are back in school and my five-year-old son has just started school this year. The holidays came and disrupted things just weeks after trying to get everyone on track. I want the rest of this year to go smoothly. Can you give us some guidance? Thanks. - C.J. Rehovot Dear C.J., You are absolutely right. Now is the time when you as a parent need to become even more involved. There are lots of things you can do to help your children have a good year. Here are just a few thoughts. Make sure your children get enough sleep. Israeli children and adults too are terribly sleep deprived; this can't help but lead to all kinds of problems. Set a bedtime that reflects the age and needs of each child. Children between five and 10 years of age need approximately 10 to 11 hours of sleep a night. Be consistent with both bedtime and your bedtime routine. Reading together followed by some cuddling, a chat and a calm sendoff to bed will help your child feel good about himself. Save television and computer games for another time of day. Create an environment that encourages learning. Make sure children work with good lighting, a desk and chair that give good back support and a room temperature that keeps him awake but not freezing! A quiet organized workplace for each child, along with a designated time in which to study and do homework, help provide a good independent learning environment. When children can get into a routine, they are far more focused and able to take on increasing responsibility for their own learning. You may have to help a child get organized with his notebooks and workspace and help him to divide his study time to be most effective and prevent him from panicking around tests or exams. Promote good study skills. Consistency is essential for building good study skills. Help children learn but don't do the work for them. Encourage children to work on their own, offer lots of praise and be there to help as is needed. Some children get easily frustrated and need more help along the way, but you can do lots to create an environment that encourages enthusiastic learning. Be an active and interested participant in your child's education. Make sure you maintain open lines of communication with your children's teacher and stay involved through volunteering to accompany your child on class outings. Keep your children motivated and promote good self-esteem. Make sure that your child is motivated or excited by what he is learning and can keep up with the assignments. If not, find out why and speak with his teacher. Encourage participation in activities that they enjoy. Non-school activities provide the opportunity for helping a child achieve balance and enjoyment. Keep children active. Physical exercise is critical for enhancing children's performance. While television and the computer have much to offer, they are sedentary activities involving minimal input from a child. That said, look at his day and ensure that it is well rounded. Does he have enough time to be creative and just play, or is he overly scheduled with hugim? Feed your child. Hungry children have a difficult time paying attention in school. If a child doesn't like breakfast, pack in a bigger nutritious snack for his mid-morning snack. Foods high in sugar provide little in the way of sustained energy and won't help your child be a more productive student. Check out your child's social life. Does your child seem well adjusted and have friends? Does she get calls from classmates and requests for play dates? Do you feel that unless you organize his social calendar, he won't have any friends? Does your child go off to and return from school happily? Ask your child if he enjoys school. While many children don't exactly love school, they don't mind it either. Make sure that he or she looks forward to going, likes his teachers and feels comfortable in his surroundings. If learning in school is fun and makes sense, if friends and family are enjoyable to be with, children will sail through the year with few difficulties. Before you know it the school bags will be put away for another year and summer will be here. In the meantime, happy parenting! Dr. Batya L. Ludman is a licensed clinical psychologist in private practice in Ra'anana. Send letters to [email protected] or visit her website at