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Helping your Children Set Expectations for the New Year


Tips from Teachers

Insights and Ideas from Smart Love teachers and tutors on how to help your children have a successful school year!

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The start of a new year can bring a range of feelings for both children and parents. Some parents may be looking forward to returning to work, while children may be excited for school or feeling a loss because the holiday season has ended. Parents can help their children begin the transition back to school by helping them to identify and acknowledge their feelings. It could sound something like "How are you feeling about school?" Then listen to what they have to say and validate the emotions they are expressing, it could sound something like, "Yeah, we had a lot of fun over the holidays, I can understand why you're feeling sad." Or, "It's great you are looking forward to starting a new semester!" Welcome all emotions, sad, happy, or anything in between.


Many people utilize the start of a new year as an opportunity to set new goals, gain perspective, or redirect if taken off course. Parents can help children do the same by asking them how they feel the first half of the school year went. If your child feels like the first half went well, parents can praise their efforts and hard work and explore if there are things that parents can do to continue to support their child's learning. It might sound something like, "Yes, you worked really hard in the first trimester, you should feel really good about your work! Is there anything that you'd like to do differently for the second half of the year? Is there anything we can do to help support you?" If your child expresses disappointment or frustration about the first half of the school year, parents can help to explore ways to make changes. Perhaps they need help planning out the week's homework, support with English assignments, or navigating tricky social situations. Follow your child's lead and ideas.


At this time, it's also helpful for parents to check in with their own expectations. All parents want their children to do well in school and grow up to be successful adults, but sometimes parents can have too high expectations for their children and hold them to unachievable standards. When setting expectations, recognize what is realistic and age-appropriate for each child. For example, it is not reasonable to expect that young elementary school students will be able to organize and complete their homework independently. When expectations are set too high, children often feel like they are constantly failing and that no matter how hard they work, they will not be able to succeed. Children also want to please their parents and feel like they are doing the right thing, but when expectations are unreasonably high, children are made to feel like they are not enough to make the parent happy. This can lead children to stop trying and to feel badly about themselves.


On the other hand, having low expectations is equally discouraging. When parents have expectations that are too low, children can come to interpret this as they are incapable, impacting their motivation. Asking a teacher or professional can be helpful to learn what are fair expectations for your child surrounding learning and homework as it can be hard to know what is reasonable for different ages. Parents can also talk to their children about what feels best for them. They can learn that maybe their child just needs reminders to start their work, or maybe they need help with certain subjects but are able to do others independently. Having a dialogue with your child about what they feel they need will help to spark their desire to succeed.


Remember, change takes time. Forming new habits and adjusting expectations is a process that doesn't always go in a straight line. Expect that there will be times that change will feel difficult and it may feel like you or your child have reverted back to your old habits or expectations. The first way to stay on track is to recognize when you have gotten off track without casting blame or doling out punishments. You may say something like, "I know that we had decided together that you would try to do a little bit of homework every night. I know it was hard for you to get anything done on Monday and Tuesday of this week. I wonder how I can help you stay on track with your goals." After acknowledging that you or your child have gotten off track, make a suggestion for how you can continue to support them. When children know that their parents are there for them and appreciate their efforts, even if they don't always meet every expectation, they are much more willing to try again and you can preserve your relationship with your child.

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