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The Informed Parent


by Catherine S. Tolnai, M.A.T.
Published on May. 09, 2011

No matter how patient and logical you are, it’s a challenge to get your child to remember that the last month of school is still a viable part of his yearlong education. The school community is reeling with special occasions like school plays, class parties, field trips, school-wide assessments, and other year-end events that seem to throw your youngster into the depths of anti-routine. For your older children, they still have final exams and state tests to prepare for. So even though the unspoken message your child perceives is that “school’s out,” it is so important the message your child receives at home is that “school’s still very much in session.”

What can you do to ensure that your child finishes the school year as strong as he began?

To start, create a balanced and routine-based environment at home. With the weather warming up and the daylight lasting longer, we all feel an itch to enjoy the outdoors more than we did during the winter months. However, choosing to extend playtime at the expense of study time is a dangerous precedent to set. Additionally, staying true to the standard dinner hour also communicates to your child that more sunlight does not necessarily equate to more hours in the day. When I was growing up, my parents set a strict “study hour” between 4:00-6:00 p.m. Sunday through Thursday. It was simply the way the house ran. Believe me when I say those were painful hours come April and May, but I knew what to expect and also understood that my parents still valued my schoolwork and success which directly translated to my values. In the end, it didn’t matter what last minute changes and special schedules I experienced during my school day; my time at home was dependably scheduled ahead of time.

Additionally, you can help your child keep his loose ends in order by continuing to hold him accountable for deadlines, projects, and assessments that are scheduled at this time of year. In the spring, teachers balance the instruction of the last bits of their curriculum with the content standards that will appear on tests and exams. Students are being asked to review and synthesize months’ worth of facts and skills and communicate their understanding on a variety of assessments and projects. Couple those expectations with a strong desire to daydream about the beach and trips during summer vacation, and you have one very distractible student on your hands. Help your child stay focused by enforcing bedtime, limits to multi-media playtime, and socializing just as you normally do. Your child will see that these stresses aren’t an excuse to totally tune out at home. Also, remember that your child’s teacher is still a resource for you. Checking in with the teacher about second semester grades and study guides for tests is a great way to support your child’s decisions at home. I talk to parents daily  about grades that are falling and habits that are changing during this time of year. I welcome the support from parents who can see their child starting to wander in the wrong direction. Obviously, knowing the deadlines and due-dates is key to holding your child accountable.

We can all relate to the excitement and freedom of the summer months, but starting vacation a month early is not a sustainable habit at any point in life. Helping your child to find a healthy balance in his formative years prepares him to make better decisions as he matures and grows into an adult. Don’t let the temptations of  ”summer-itis” get the best of your family; save the summer fun for the summer months.

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