Back To School and Back To Stress?


Summer is officially over and kids are back in school. In some households, back to school also means back to stress. So, how can parents make the transition into the school year more successful and less stressful? This week, I was able to interview with WTOP radio about starting off a successful school year without the stress.


How do I get my child off to a successful school year?

You absolutely want to attend Back to School Night and listen for information on two topics. The first is how progress is communicated. In most school districts, progress reports are sent to parents electronically every two weeks, or, at minimum, a mid-term point. Be sure you know when these dates are so you can discuss with your child how they’re doing early on and not late in the game when things may have gone wrong.

Second, you want to know how your child’s teachers will report homework assignments. There’s nothing worse than finding out that your little Jimmy didn’t turn in a book report, and you were thinking, “what book report”? So, at Back to School Night, find out from each teacher how they’ll be communicating homework assignments. You’d think that all teachers would have the same process, but they don’t. Get on the ball early, so that you can help your child stay on top of things.

You can read more on Back To School Tips Every Parent Must Have here.


Issues families have over homework don’t usually come to light until the end of September or October when the homework load becomes too much. How do you avoid stress and frustration?

In talking with thousands of parents and kids, one thing we know for certain is that each child faces their own unique challenges. So, to avoid stress and frustration, it’s always helpful to think back on what happened last year. What was the biggest issue you encountered? For many, it’s procrastination! So before you see your child starting to procrastinate on homework assignments this year, talk to them about possible solutions. One idea is to use a timer to help kids get started on homework, especially for those in elementary school. For example, if you want your child to start homework in 20 minutes, set the timer for that amount of time and say, “When the buzzer goes off, it’s time to begin.” So now it’s the timer telling your child to start, not you. It takes the emotion out of the request.


What about the flip side, the kid that spends too much time on homework?

For students spending an excessive amount of time on homework, we use a technique called “must do”, “should do”, “could do”. We have the kids sort their assignments daily into one of those three categories. The work that absolutely has to be done first goes into the “must do” category. If it should be done, but not necessarily at that time, put it in the “should do” category – like a math assignment that’s not due for a couple of days. And then if the work would be more of a step up but isn’t necessarily required, it goes into the “could do” category. Having kids think about their assignments this way can help balance what absolutely needs to be done versus what’s simply a nice to have.


How do you find that balance between extracurriculars and academics?

Time management is the key to finding a balance. The biggest mistake I see kids make is not using small chunks of time to their advantage. They often think, “I need a few hours of time to get all this work done”, but in reality, they can probably check more things off their homework to-do list by using small increments of time. Use that 20 minutes before soccer practice for completing the spelling homework, or that half hour before dinner to get math done.

In fact, studies show that dividing work into smaller chunks helps kids to be more focused and efficient.


And remember, if your child isn’t listening your advice, don’t take it personally. Kids tend to respond better to outside help, when it’s not coming from their mom and dad. Even in my own home, my kids are more likely to listen to one of our coaches or tutors than to me. Consider getting a third party perspective, like a tutor, for your child.