By Smarty Guest Blogger Cathie Broocks, Director of Admissions at Charlotte Christian School
“How can I help?” is a question many teachers hear from caring parents wanting to partner at the start of a new school year. The answer most teachers want to share, but may hesitate to do so, is not focused on purchases or activities related to the classroom but rather a set of priorities which would position a child, at any grade level, for success in the year ahead.
ESTABLISH FAMILY ROUTINES
The most important routine for students of all ages is an established time to go to bed. Neuroscientists refer to increasingly inconsistent and inadequate sleep our children are getting as “homemade jetlag”, citing the body needs five nights of adequate sleep to recover from just one night of loss. Most importantly, it is in sleep when new information taken in the brain during the day is ‘synthesized’ and moved to long-term memory for efficient retrieval. Sleep provides children the physical and emotional reserve for school days filled with learning new skills, expending emotional energy in peer relations and accommodating physical growth needs.
ENJOY DINNER TOGETHER
In studying the attributes of successful students, the National Merit Scholarship foundation discovered that high achieving students eat dinner with their family at least three times a week. Dinner time conversations offer young children opportunities to expand vocabulary, syntax development and even important inflections of tones absent in mere text exchanges. Parents careful listening and loving exchanges with their child will produce more meaningful information about a child’s life and feelings than a pointed inquisition when trouble arises.
PROVIDE YOUR CHILD THE FREEDOM TO FAIL
Ensuring your child’s success by having her watch you do the science project at 11 p.m. is the equivalent of buying a Chia Pet instead of planting a garden. Students allowed to fail (for some students ‘failing’ may be a B instead of an A) learn to listen more carefully to directions, reevaluate time management skills and seek help and clarification at the right time. Most importantly a child will learn that Mom and Dad value them, not for their performance, but for honest efforts.
OFFER “THE BENEFIT OF THE DOUBT”
Extending adults in authority the benefit of the doubt when a child feels wronged does not demote the child’s opinion. Instead it commences a situation with the parent modeling trust in another adult and a time to view an issue from another person’s perspective. The goal is not about being right, but about understanding both views. Parents also have to render unpopular decisions on the home front. Children’s emotional muscles of trust will develop best in an environment of adults who respect one another.
Every child, regardless of age, can have their day lightened by a bear hug, an “I love you” or from hearing a funny story from the parent’s school days. Finding humor in situations may save more than the moment; it will provide nuggets of trust, forgiveness and hope. Learning to laugh at a situation or even at themselves reenergizes a child’s emotional energy to face the hills and valleys of being a student. (FYI- it takes less muscles to smile and to laugh than to frown. Parents can save their emotional energy as well.)
Mrs. Cathie Broocks is an early education specialist who often writes about issues important to young children and their parents. She has taught in public, independent and Christian schools (3’s, 4’s, Pre-K, K) for more than 30 years. Her administrative experiences include two gubernatorial appointments (working with the Virginia Commission for Children and Youth and, for Secretary for Human Resources). She served as the preschool director and director of youth ministries in two church settings. She has enjoyed opportunities to serve on the Educational Board of Discovery Place, in Charlotte, N.C. and to contribute to PBS curriculum for the cartoon series Danger Rangers. Currently she works as the director of admissions for Charlotte Christian School. Mrs. Broocks is a Gesell examiner and a participant in the Learning and the Brain Programs. Her passion is to honor the Lord Jesus Christ by supporting His developmental pathways for growth and learning in the lives of young students. She seeks opportunities to partner with parents and early childhood professional to foster a love of learning in children.