It’s almost the end of the school year and I could not be happier. *queue Madea’s “Hallelujer”* It’s all fun and games in August — the class list, the school supplies, the overpriced Nikes the kids have to have. But come Spring Break (or if you’re my family — October) things start getting a little rough.

School is hard. Seven hours of desks and worksheets and quiet hallways. It’s not like the glorious days of summer that are basically knocking on our doors right now, where the kids can sleep (hopefully) past 7 a.m. and your entire summer agenda has one item: swim.

So what do you do when you get the dreaded phone call/email that your beloved little child is really, truly struggling to make it through the day?

Listen

Listen to the teachers. Listen to administrators. Be capable of truly hearing what is going on without being defensive. But what’s equally important — listen to your kid. What are they saying to you? What is their body language saying? Is school too hard? Too easy?  What is causing your kid to have a hard time?

The old-school parenting way says to punish and take away privileges and, sure, that garners immediate results. But what if you choose to listen to what’s happening for your child during the day? Be open to listening and then make appropriate adjustments based on what you’re hearing.

Advocate

Lots of times, our elementary school kids and sometimes even middle schoolers can’t articulate what they feel or need.

I’ve got plenty of friends and family (hi, mom!) who are teachers and lots of times, parents go to bat for their kids a little too hard — blaming the teacher, deflecting responsibility, etc.  Don’t be that guy.

Sometimes your kids just simply needs you to support them and back them up, to help communicate what they cannot — which is why you have to start with listening to know what they are trying to communicate.

Collaborate

It was just teacher appreciation week but really, we should be appreciating these people year-round. They are tending to our kids for a large portion of their lives, often times in groups of 20 or more. This is basically a herd.

We all know the state of North Carolina teacher salaries (c’mon Roy Cooper!) so if these men and women are showing up every. Single. Day. To teach our kids, it’s pretty likely that they care a good deal about them. They want to work with you but like anyone else want to be treated kindly and with respect.

Figure out how to work alongside the teachers and school.  Maybe you have differences and maybe you disagree – this is life. Find out what will work for your child and his/her teacher within the classroom environment. Find out what would be helpful for you to reinforce at home.

If your kid has a hard time sitting still, practice together. If it’s clear they feel rushed in the mornings, show up to school early. Lots of times, it’s simple tweaks that when identified can make a huge difference for your kids.

Intervene

If listening, advocating and collaborating don’t seem to be working, you may have a larger issue at hand. Maybe your school environment really isn’t working.  We are a little late in the year, but there is always a chance you could get into a different CMS magnet or charter — it never hurts to apply. But don’t be too quick to run away.

Maybe the issue is not the school but the struggle your kid is having. It sounds scary but maybe have your kid evaluated by an Occupational Therapist or psychiatrist to see if there are underlying medical issues that are keeping your kid from reaching their full potential.

Our kids spend so many hours at school each day, for at least 13 long years.  We truly do want our kids to enjoy this time.  Can you imagine working a job 40-hours/week for thirteen years that you hated? No. You’d lose it.

So don’t dismiss it when your kids say they aren’t happy or you get the 800th email about what else your kid has done wrong — be proactive. Do something about it. It will make everybody’s life a little bit easier.

Photo Credit: Liz Logan

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