Category : School Tips

School Tips

Problems in School: Part 2

I talked in my last post about my first grader's problems in school. In this post, I’d like to share with you what solutions I worked out to help her.

As I mentioned, the teacher’s main complaint was N.’s behavior during the first period of school. So this is where I focused the main part of the plan. I’m sure there’ll be other things to add, but I like to phase in one part of a behavior plan at a time.

So the question was, how to help N. settle down for the first period?

The teacher suggested that N. come earlier to school. The theory being that if she had more time to play and talk with her friends, she wouldn’t feel the need to do so in first period.

When she said that, I felt a little guilty. It’s true that N. doesn’t get there early; she usually just makes it in time. I have to wait with my littlest for his bus, which often doesn’t come until 8:10, or later. Then I run home and take the two girls to nursery school and first grade.

Even though the school is within walking distance, we still take about 10-15 minutes, assuming there are no bathroom stops or forgotten items. Although the teacher said they could arrive as early as 8:00, that still didn’t help me since I need to wait for the younger one’s bus before 8.  I’m not taking any chances on missing his bus and having to travel 40 minutes to bring him to school.

But perhaps the teacher was correct? I thought about it for a bit, and then reconsidered. Does N. really need more time to settle herself? Or did she just need more structure? If the latter were the case, then getting there earlier would just mean more time for her to get out of control. By the time the teacher walked into the class, it would take even more time for her to settle down than before.

Just to be sure, I asked my oldest, who just finished high school in the same school. She’s been really involved in helping with the girls, and I trust her opinion. Because the high school and the elementary school are in the same building, she’s had plenty of opportunities to keep an eye on her. “Mom, that’s the last thing she needs!” was her emphatic answer. “Unless you want her to get sent home…”

Okay, that’s out.

So I came up with an alternate plan. I decided to give N. some sort of worksheet to take with her every day. It could be anything from writing numbers to coloring, but the main point was that she was to do it until the teacher came in to the classroom.

With some kids this wouldn’t work. You’d never be able to rely on them to remember to do the worksheet, or they’d get distracted in the middle. In that case, you’d have to ask the teacher to stop in the class to get them started, or if that wasn’t possible, find an older child in the school who would be willing to do the job.

Fortunately, I can rely on N. to do as I asked, although I am considering hiring an older child to just check on her from time to time, since my daughter is no longer there.

So I prepared a few worksheets for the week, and rehearsed the “what to do until the teacher comes into the classroom” routine.

This is what it looks like:

1) Go into the class.

2) Put your backpack on the back of your seat (there aren’t any lockers – books are kept in the bag during the day and taken out as needed).

3) Take out your worksheet and your crayons.

4) Do the worksheet until the teacher comes in.

5) When the teacher comes in, put away your worksheet and crayons, look at the teacher, and listen to what she says.

For my daughter a verbal run through was enough. I review with her every day what the procedure is, on our way to school. I also take the opportunity to  quiz her on what she needs to do when she needs to ask a question, go to the bathroom, or needs help from the teacher.

If she had trouble remembering the steps, though, I’d probably make a visual schedule for her to remember what to do. I’d probably print it out in a smaller size, laminate it, put it on a keychain, and attach it to a zipper on the outside of her backpack.

Or, since there’s a plastic covered section for a school schedule on the inside of her backpack, I could put it there if she were embarrassed- which she almost never is, anyway.

So far it seems to be helping. Only once did I need to make a slight reminder: another child had also colored in her worksheet, so I explained to her that only she can do her worksheet. So I guess I can breathe again- at least until the next time I speak to the teacher J.





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School Tips

Problems in School: What to do when your child starts misbehaving in school

Well, the honeymoon is over, and the real work begins.

I spoke to N. 's first grade teacher today, and found out that she's already started misbehaving in school. Apparently yesterday was the day from hell: N. was completely wild, talking out of turn, getting up in the middle of the lesson without permission, and even going so far as to push the child sitting next to her.

Fortunately the teacher qualified her complaints, explaining that yesterday was unusually bad. However, there are problems that need to be addressed, and of course yesterday was the straw that broke the camel's back.

Of course I'm not surprised - I knew N. would take time to adjust to first grade, and knew that it would take time for her to adjust to the new rules and expectations that first grade - which is when school officially starts here- involves.

Of course I was hoping I wouldn't have to hear bad news quite so early - it is the day before my daughter's wedding -but I suppose it could be worse. I will admit that for the first 10 minutes or so I felt a bit panicky.

I wanted to sit down and write out a plan immediately, but of course that wasn't happening. So as I ran around and did wedding errands, I broke down the main problems that needed to be addressed.

For those of you dealing with behavior problems in school, this is a good look at the process you should take when figuring out a solution:

Listen carefully to how problems are described.

In my daughter's case, the teacher had several complaints, but it was the first one that struck me the most. She stated that generally N. was fine for everything but the first hour. After that, she calmed down.

This is a key point, and tells me that her failure to settle down could be due to several things:

1) Check out medication problems.

From experience this is more of a common problem than parents realize. Some parents give meds as soon as their child wakes up, because they are so difficult to handle. This can cause a problem towards the end of the school day, when the medicine wears off much sooner than it should.

Other parents are inconsistent about giving medication - sometimes forgetting it as much as two or three times a week. Even though you can see a change immediately with Ritalin, it works better if it's taken regularly and at the same time each day (BTW that's true for all medications).

Although I'm pretty careful about giving her medication, I had switched the time that I give her Ritalin to a slightly different time, so it was possible that I completely forgot to give it to her on that fateful day. Oops.

In general, though, I knew that I'm pretty regular about giving her medicine, and I wasn't giving it too early. Since I wanted to make sure it would last for as much of the day as it could, I was giving it to her at 8:00. She starts school at 8:30, so I figured that would carry her through most of the day, since school finishes at 1:00.

Then I got the idea that maybe her body takes longer to process Ritalin. I remembered the times I'd given her Ritalin on school holidays (to check her reaction to the medication), where I noticed seeing that glazed donut look in her eyes about 3 hours after giving it.

Since she's on the regular 4 hour formula, that's a little too late to start seeing an effect. The level of meds in her system should be at its highest about 2 hours after she's given it. So that meant that it takes about an hour longer for the Ritalin to kick in.

In other words, her medication wasn't kicking in until- you guessed it- the second hour of the day.

This is an easy fix: I just started giving her medication about 7:00, so that by 8:30 or 9:00 everything should be in place.

Take a close look at classroom routines.

Many times, the kids who have problems act like a "mine canary." For anyone whose not familiar with the term, in the old days, miners used to use canaries to tell them when the air in the mine was too dangerous to breathe. When the canaries died- it was time to get out.

Kids with behavioral and learning issues are the same way. They are the ones who are the most sensitive to lack of clear routines, rules, failure to build in transition properly, and other classroom no-no's.

Now I'm not saying of course that these conditions are caused by poor teaching, but I've found that the really good teachers have significantly less problems with "problem children" than the mediocre ones.

In N.'s case, her teacher is experienced, but probably didn't spend enough time in the beginning of the year making sure her class is well trained in routines and procedures.

Some teachers (and parents) don't realize how critical procedures are to a child's success. That's because they teach children how they are expected to work and behave in a classroom (or home) environment.

From experience I've seen that often teachers complain to me about a child's disruptive behavior, when in reality it would be eliminated if the teacher had spent the time at the beginning of the year making sure the kids learn how they're expected to behave in class.

Take a look at this list of common teacher complaints:

  • Doesn't sit down when class starts
  • Uses free time inappropriately
  • Can't work independently
  • Talks out of turn
  • Doesn't settle down when the teacher comes in
  • Never seems to know what the homework is
  • Gets up to leave the room before class is over
  • Doesn't give in completed homework

Now if we change the wording around we see that this is a child who needs to be taught procedures:

  • what to do when the bell rings
  • what to do when you finish your work early
  • what to do when a pencil breaks
  • what to do if you have a question
  • what to do when they enter the classroom
  • where to find an assignment
  • what to do when class is dismissed
  • how to ask a question
  • how to turn in homework

So, I knew the next step I had to take was make a plan to make sure N. knows and carries through on classroom procedures - that may or may not exist. But since this is getting to be a long post, you'll have to tune in tomorrow to the details of the plan.

BTW- why not share below a problem your child has in their classroom? If you get it in soon enough, I'll address it in my next post.


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How to Help Your Child Learn: 3 Reasons Why Your Child Doesn’t Understand What He Learns in School

Does your child come home from school, complaining that he didn’t understand what the teacher said?

Trying to explain to your child what seems to you like a simple concept can be incredibly frustrating. Sometimes, no matter how many times you try to explain it – even when you get creative and break out hands-on learning materials- your child just doesn’t get it.

Both of you and your child are left feeling frustrated and angry with each other.

Understanding is not instant – it takes time.

We tend to think of understanding as something that happens right away. A story is read, a concept is explained, and boom – instant understanding. In fact, understanding is something that builds upon itself over time.

First, your child must process what he hears or sees. In this stage, he’s just taking in the information, and so at this point he is merely processing the material on a very superficial level.

Later on, he’ll spend time connecting this new information with what he already knows about the subject. He’ll ask himself, “Does this fit in with what I already know? How is it different?” After that he might mull over the subject further, processing it on a deeper level. He might take the information and apply it to a novel situation. Or he might use the information to solve a problem in a different, but related, area.

Different levels of understanding mean different reasons why your child misunderstands material.

Because there are so many levels at which understanding takes place, there are numerous places where your child can hit a roadblock in understanding what they learn. Knowing where your child hits her particular roadblock is the key to helping her understand what she learns.

Here are 3 common areas that children have trouble with:

Weak language skills

Some children have trouble understanding because they have a poor vocabulary, or they don’t understand complex sentences. Others have a good vocabulary and can understand complex sentences – but not when they have to hear a lengthy explanation. Still other children might manage fine in some classes, but fall apart when they’re forced to understand abstract concepts.

Weak memory

A strong memory is critical to understanding. Not only does it help your child remember concepts that are being presented to them right now, it also helps them remember related concepts and ideas that tie into what they are presently learning. Being able to tie in related concepts learned at a different time also makes for a deeper and richer understanding of the topic at hand.

It also makes it easier for children to remember what they learn, since they’re processing the material on a deeper level. Children who have trouble remembering then lose out doubly: they can’t remember what they’re learning at the moment, and they can’t use their previous knowledge of a subject to help them strengthen the new material because they can’t access it, or never learned it in the first place.

Inability to form concepts

When your child forms a concept, they are taking several pieces of information,  and making a general statement about how they are alike (or different). This is also called concept formation.

Children who have trouble forming a concept can be given a dozen examples, but will still be unable to extract the general principle from them. Instead of seeing a whole from the parts, they see only the parts.

Your child’s trouble with forming concepts can show itself in different ways. Some children only have trouble in certain areas, like algebra or physics. Others need material to be presented in the way they learn best: for some that means words, and for others, pictures. Still other children may have difficulty understanding concepts that span more than one area: for example, understanding how fractions relate to decimals.

Next time when your child insists they don’t understand, try and get at the root of why they don’t understand. You can look at their overall performance in school and home to get a better idea. For example, is it only in math? Is it only when she learns new material? Does she understand better when you write it out, or draw a picture?

All of these things will take the sting out of hearing “But I just don’t understand…” and help point you and your child in the right direction.




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What NOT to Tell the Teacher on the First Day of School

Be prepared - not.

Perhaps you believe in the old Scout motto “be prepared.”

So you’ve tacked together a 27 page manifesto on the care and handling of junior, complete with cell phone numbers of everyone from your next door neighbor to the stock boy at the  local produce store (just in case you happen to be out choosing a watermelon when World War III starts).

And while you probably spent a good deal of blood, sweat, and tears – not to mention time – on the Great American Novel, let me give you a piece of good advice: pack it away for a good long time.

Like forever.

"I love your kid, but can't you see I've got something good going on here?"

What it comes down to is this: in the first week or two of school, most teachers are busy enough trying to get their class used to being a class. They spend their time on getting to know the kids, helping everyone adjust to being in school again, and basically trying to make sure that the year gets off to a good start.

I’ve been on both sides of the fence, both as a principal and as a private consultant. And no matter what the age, culture, or creed, one thing holds true for almost every situation: never bother the teacher the first week of school unless it’s a medical issue, or a very practical one (like, Jimmie hates to use other people’s bathrooms).

Why, you ask? Well, although it might seem like a great idea to make sure your child’s teacher knows everything there is to know about your child, the last thing a teacher wants is to receive a manual the size of War and Peace.

Lots of instructions=lots of work

I mean think about it. Ever bought a gadget, only to take out an instruction manual thicker than the packaging the thing came in? How did that make you feel? Did that make you feel like running to the nearest table so you could dive right in and start using your expensive, I –bought-it –because-I –really-need-it thingamabob?

Or did you groan, and put it away until you had more time – like maybe during the next power blackout?

Of course it’s important that your child’s teacher know how your child learns best. I’m all for that- heck, that’s what I do (and I absolutely love it too).

But there’s a time and a place for everything. You’ll have plenty of time in a few weeks to tell the teacher all kinds of good (and not so good) stuff. But when that time comes, you’ll want to do it in a way that builds a good relationship with your child’s teacher. That could mean volunteering your time in the classroom, offering to help cut out turkey feathers for 27 turkeys, or simply catching the teacher during a quiet moment.  There are numerous ways to show gain even the most reluctant teacher’s cooperation (I’ll be writing a post about it in a week or so, so keep your head up).

But for now, take a deep breath, and have a little faith that things will go okay.

And if you absolutely must let the teacher know some important bit of info, jot down a quick note to the teacher. Start off with a friendly greeting and end off with a wish for a great year, and keep the middle short, sweet, and to the point.

And hey, look on the bright side: now your kids won’t have to steal your good printer paper to color on.

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Parenting Children: 3 Tips On How to Help Your Special Needs Child Get Ready for School (Painlessly)

Are you ready yet for the first day of school?

You may have already invested in half of the school supplies in Walmart, picked out an entire wardrobe of back-to-school clothing, and be waiting with baited breath for the sound of the school bus, but is your child ready?

Often we forget in the rush of buying school supplies that our children need time to prepare for school as well. Remember those days as a kid when the summer seemed to stretch on forever? Imagine how your child feels when he's suddenly hit with long rides on the school bus, homework, and lots of new faces.

In fact, some of the difficulty I see from parents who are panicking because their child seems to be drowning the first week of school, is often because they failed to take the time to help their transition from free spirit to school slave.

Here are some tips you can use to help your child make a smooth transition from summer to the first day of school:

1) Help your child get used to waking up on time.

If you're like most parents, your child has spent numerous nights jamming on the couch, and more mornings than you'd care to admit buried deep under the covers well past 8 o'clock.

While I'll be the first to admit that's the whole point of vacation, it does nothing to help your child when he suddenly has to readjust his body clockwork and get up at some previously unheard of hour.

Overtired children make for grumpy, uncooperative offspring, and unpleasant -but avoidable - morning fights. This period is especially difficult for children with special needs, who often have a desperate need for sameness, and avoid change like the plague.

You can avoid all of that by helping your child to reset their internal clock.

Your child's internal clock will need at least a week to adjust to a new schedule. Help your child get into the groove by slowly moving her bedtime back about 15 minutes, and pushing up the time she wakes up by 15 minutes.

For example, if your child has been going to bed at 9:30 p.m., the first night you need to set bedtime at 9:15. If your child has been waking up around 9 in the morning, then wake them up at 8:45 a.m.

Your child should arrive at the appropriate bedtime in a few days.

2) Get your child used to doing homework again.

Ahh, homework. It's definitely the bane of many parents. I personally can't tell you how many times I wished the teacher would die a thousand homework deaths for giving homework that took hours, or just couldn't be done. (Okay, maybe I didn't wish they were actually dead - just temporarily incapacitated).

But since most of the time homework has to be done, you need to get your child back in the habit of giving up his precious  free time to sit at the table and do boring, useless, homework. (You do know homework has been proven absolutely useless, don't you? Take a look at what Alfie Kohn says about the matter).

Forget about all the speeches about how doing homework prepares you for life and good citizenship. They weren't very convincing when your boss asked you to take some work home, now were they?

Instead, simply tell your child exactly what your plan is. Then set aside 10 minutes or so of table time where he needs to do some sort of work that you assign him.

You can find plenty of stuff online of course, and there's no need to go out of your way to make things especially boring. And while you're at it, take a look at this post on the 7 Effective Study Habits for Children with LD.

You could spend some time doing some hands on learning, or you could simply take that time to read or write a story with your child. Either way, make it clear to your child how long the session will last.

Build in a minor reward, like choosing an extra story at bedtime, or getting to use the bubbles for her bath. You can gradually wean her off of the incentive after a few days.

3) Make sure your child's backpack and notebooks are set up for success.

First of all, make sure you have exactly what you need. Parents sometimes have this habit of assuming it won't really matter if the crayons are the 32 pack instead of the 16 color.

But it really does. Sometimes there actually are some really good reasons why teachers say exactly those materials, in that quantity, from X company.

School is already hard enough without your child having to worry if the teacher will be mad at him because he didn't bring exactly what's on the list. So just do your child a favor: if you can afford it, just swallow and put it in the cart.

It's also important to make sure your child's notebooks, workbooks, and textbooks are easily locatable, and organized so that your child doesn't leave critical material at school. Here's a practical post on how to do that: Help Your ADHD Child Organize Her Backpack.

Have a question or a comment? Love to hear from you below!



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School Tips: Improve Your Child’s Attention

Wondering what attention really is, what causes it, and what you can do about it?

First of all, the simple definition of paying attention means being able to focus on the important stuff while ignoring the things that aren’t important. For example, let’s say you have an important project to finish at work. You need to be able to sit down at your desk and get started. If you keep turning your head to watch who is heading to the coffee machine, or if you keep perking your ears up to hear the latest gossip at the water canteen, you will definitely not finish your project in time.

In school, there are many potential distracters for your child: children whispering, watches beeping, the janitor sweeping the sidewalks outside, the faulty air conditioner system, and so on. Your child needs to be able to screen out all of these distractions while at the same time focusing on what the teacher is saying.

Although it is obvious when a child has trouble paying attention, it’s not always obvious why this is so. Part of this is due to the fact that “attention” is a very broad term. Saying a child has trouble paying attention is like saying you have a stomach ache. You could have indigestion, appendicitis, or an undiagnosed hernia. In order to really determine why you are in so much pain, your doctor would insist on examining you in order to make a diagnosis.

Unfortunately, even though 1 out of 4 children in the U.S. are taking medicine, and the second largest group of medicines being given are attention-enhancing drugs, few professionals seek to discover the underlying reasons for your child’s inability to pay attention.

In truth, there are a lot of reasons why your child might have trouble paying attention. It’s simply not enough to give your child Ritalin and hope things work out. At best, attention-enhancing medications are only a tool that will help your child begin to take responsibility for his or her behavior. Look at it this way: if before medication your child was like a car without brakes, then giving him medication is like restoring the brakes. However, someone will still need to know when to apply the brakes, how hard, and for how long. That person is your child.

Your child’s ability to take charge of this attention is critical to his success. Attention can be compared to the conductor of an orchestra. In the same way that a conductor doesn’t actually play music, but is totally responsible for those who do, your child’s attention system is responsible for many individual brain functions that govern his ability to think, learn, and get along with others. Even if your child has strong skills in numerous areas, if he is unable to master his attention system he will be like an orchestra without a conductor.

When we examine the attention system, which Dr. Mel Levine refers to as the attention control system, there are three major controls that play a role. One of these is called the “mental energy system.” Have you ever noticed that sometimes your mind feels like molasses pouring on a cold day? You want to garner the energy you need to start work on that important project, but whenever you start to tackle it you start to feel sleepy, or it seems to take an inordinate amount of effort in order to understand the most basic of information.

This is an example of the mental energy control system. It is akin to the fuel regulator in your car, which determines how little or how much gas goes to your engine. Too little, and your engine won’t start. Too much, then you run the danger of burning out your engine, or running out of fuel before you get to your destination.

The two major forms of behavior the mental energy control system is responsible for are alertness, and mental effort. Children who suffer from a weak mental energy control system may react in two different ways. Some children appear sleepy no matter how much sleep they get. They may yawn or sleepy, especially when they have to sit still. These children are the ones who slowly wilt into their seat as the class goes on.

Other children may appear exactly the opposite: they may fidget, squirm in their seat, or show other behaviors that are really an attempt on their part to stay awake. Ever notice how some children get even wilder when they are tired? Suddenly they become obsessive talk show hosts, or look like they are trying out for the Olympic Triathelon – all in an effort to keep their systems up and going.

Children can also be more alert at different times of the day. Some children are simply night owls, who are only beginning to warm up when the rest of are winding up for the day. These children may also be off in terms of their sleep schedule: they may have great difficulty getting or staying to sleep at night, and as a consequence might be hard to wake up in the morning. This is also called a sleep-arousal imbalance.

Other children are more or less alert depending on how information is presented to them. Some children are weak when it comes to information presented in an auditory format, while others tilt off when presented information in a visual format. This children might show inconsistent performance; one day they might be bull’s eye on target, while the next they aren’t even at the competition.

This is often extremely frustrating for parents and teachers-and the children too. Parents and teachers are often angry at the child, feeling that this behavior is being done purposely. The child, on the other hand, is often confused and at a loss; he would love to be in top form every day, but he is at a loss at how to do so. Often he feels as if he is at fault, although he has little control of how much “fuel” his system receives on any particular day.

Another frustrating truth is that the same child who can’t manage to expend a little bit of effort at school suddenly turns into a work-horse for thing she enjoys. Parents look at the child and exclaim, “Well, she spends plenty of time on the phone!” Although this is undeniable, it is also true that these activities are fun and motivating, while most school related activities are not interesting or highly-motivating. They require a lot of effort, over an extended period of time, and rewards for doing so are often not immediate.

Many people are able to overcome this, because they recognize the long-term value of pursuing such activities, and because they can manage to sustain a reasonable amount of mental effort while engaged in an otherwise unsatisfying activity. These children, however, find it extraordinarily difficult.

Stay tuned for my next post on attention, where you’ll learn 16  new tips to help the child with weak mental energy controls at home and at school!

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School Tips: 3 Signs Your Child Might Be Failing In School

The hustle and bustle of the new school year are over now, and your child has finally settled down at school. He knows who all of his teachers are, which teacher gives easy A's, and has finally found a group to sit with at lunch. Give or take a few minor issues, everything, you think, is okay. Or is it?

During this time of year, it's easy for parents to be  less vigilant when it comes to how their children are doing in school. After all, it' s not quite time for parent-teacher conferences, and just enough time has passed to assume that most children have adjusted to the back and forth of school life.

Actually, now is the time you should take a close look at how your child is doing in school. There are many reasons why your child could be struggling in school, without you being aware of it. Your child may be having trouble adjusting to a new grade or a new middle school, but feels too shy to bring it up with you.

Or, the son who made dean's list all through elementary school may be overwhelmed with the sudden complexity and depth of the material, but be worried about being thought of as "stupid." Your daughter could be struggling with finding her place in a social landscape that shifts more rapidly than the San Andres fault line.

Early intervention in all of these cases is the key to success for your child. Dealing with these problems now- while they are relatively small- gives you the time and resources to tackle them head on, before they become tsunamis.

Here are 5 warning signs to look out for:

1) Avoiding homework. By now your child should have gotten the idea that she has to do homework, even if she doesn't enjoy it. But if you find your child lying about whether or not she has homework, insisting that you help her through every step, or flat-out refusing to do homework, then this may be sign something more serious may be at work.

There are several reasons why this may be occurring. It could be that the teacher is assigning new material for homework, in an attempt to cover more ground; a group of parents may need to approach the school administration.

Or perhaps your child has difficulty following or remembering instructions, and so doesn't know exactly what they are supposed to do; she may need help learning how to use a planner.

Don't rule out learning difficulties; even a child who has done well up until now can still have difficulty. As Dr. Mel Levine, a top pediatrician and learning specialist explains, the demands upon children as they progress through the system change, and new neurodevelopmental skills may be required. A child who until now relied on is strong memory might find himself at a loss when deeper analytical skills are required.

Of course if your child has always had problems doing homework, then now is the time to address that issue. Homework is important not only because it gives children a chance to review material, but also because it helps them develop discipline, as well as learn how to sustain effort even when there is no immediate reward.

Your first step should be to ask your child why this is happening. If if this is too volatile a subject, then a close family member might have better luck uncovering the reason for your child's intransigence.

After you've identified a possible reason, work together with school staff to implement a solution. Most importantly, don't forget to evaluate how things are going after a week or two. If it isn't working as expected, reevaluate the situation. This is a critical step, but one most often overlooked.

2) Over or Under Involvement with friends. If your child has just started a new school, then you probably already have your eye out for this. But did you know that even well-adjusted kids can experience occasional, but serious, problems in this area?

There are two ages when this may occur: around nine, and later as teenagers. In the former case, children shift from being family-centered to peer-centered. Up until now your child probably looked to you as the most important figure in his life. It was your opinions he valued, and your thoughts he was interested in hearing.

Now, however, his friends have become the all powerful force that rule his life, for better or for worse. No longer will you be able to soothe him with a "don't worry about what they say, it doesn't matter." Your child will look to his peers first, and to you second.

This is true even if you have a good relationship with your child. A natural part of your child learning how to find his place in society is his seemingly blind dependence to what his friends think. Though frustrating at times, he is using his peers to experiment with different aspects of himself. He may even rely on his friends to viscerally share experiences he might not otherwise have had the courage or creativity to try out on his own.

Especially common at this age is the GROUP. Children between 9-11 are very into forming clubs, teams, gangs, and cliques. Part of the attraction is not only who is in the group, but also who is not.

Some children have trouble fitting in to a particular group. They may have always been at the edge, not ignored but not actively recruited as a friend. Other children may be what is called "controversial,"  meaning children either love them or hate them, with very little in-between. These children may shift rapidly from group to group as their popularity waxes or wanes.

Beware too of the "popular" child. She may find her place easily, but you'll want to know if she has decided she is the Queen of fourth grade. At home she may be the bees' knees, but watch out for power plays, backstabbing, and courtesan shopping. You will need to help her learn how to use her leadership skills in a positive way.

Teenagers experience many of the same ups and downs as the earlier age, often for the same reasons. However, while previously the groups were much more fluid, with membership changing from week to week, as teenagers the groups are fairly fixed, and the stakes much higher.

Furthermore, teenagers are faced with decisions that involve real responsibility, with far-reaching consequences. All of this is complicated by rapid physical and hormonal changes.

3)Your child suddenly develops an over interest- or conversely, complete lack of interest, in her body. It's normal for pre-teens and older to be interested in how they look. These days, even children as young as nine are quite aware of how they look, and make a concerted effort to look "with it."

However, if you notice that your child spends too much time talking about food or losing weight,  knows how many calories are in everything she eats, wears baggy clothing to hide their shape, or avoids eating with the family, they may be developing an eating disorder. If you have any doubt about whether your child has an eating disorder, talk with your child, or consult a specialist if necessary.

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School Tips

School Tips: Help Your ADHD Child Organize Her Backpack

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The first day of school is on the horizon. How about a few school tips to make those first days go a little bit easier? One of the most challenging things about school is helping your child keep his bookbag organized. Here are several parent and child tested tips for helping your ADHD child:

1. Color-code. Tired of hearing your child say, "I can't find my science notebook and I looked all over for it!" followed by a half-hour dig through the wilds of your child's backpack? Try using color to help your child stay organized. Every notebook, folder, workbook, or textbook that pertains to a particular subject should be the same color.

For textbooks and workbooks, you can use contact paper, plain wrapping paper, or large colored stickers (depending on your child's preference and school rules). When you or your child's teacher tell her to take out her science homework, she has a visual clue that will help her find what she needs easily and quickly.

2. Take only what you need. Some children have a tendency to take everything they own to school. This means they will drag along with them the entire pack of pencils, four erasers, eight pens, three sharpeners... I think you get the idea.

A better idea is to allow your child to take the minimum: two pencils, an eraser, a pencil sharpener, and two pens are usually sufficient. Include markers and crayons if they need them. Store the overflow in a marked box out of eyesight, which discourages raiding when someone can't find that elusive eraser.

3. Create a homework caddy. How many times has your child left their pencil case at home, because they forgot to put it back in their backpack after they finished their homework, or borrowed a pen to write down a friend's phone number?

Instead, use a caddy (a plastic basket or cardboard box are also fine) to store all the supplies your child might need, such as a ruler, a compass, a protractor, colored pencils, markers ,etc. When your child does his homework, he leaves his pencil case in his backpack, and uses the caddy instead. The caddy should not be stored in his room; it should be kept in whatever room your child does his homework, and can be available to anyone who does their homework in that room.

4. Teach your child to use a homework planner/calendar. Being organized in school include knowing how to organize your time. There are many different types of homework planners on the market, so you should easily be able to find one that suits both you and your child's needs.

You will need to train your child to use it, initially. Start out by helping your child fill out a school schedule. Color-code each subject. Then, every night when she prepares her bag for the next day, she simply looks at her schedule, and sees, for example, geography (green). She then makes sure that anything with a green wrapper or label ends up in her bookbag.

If you want to get even more organized, you can put a little number in parenthesis next to each subject; this number will indicate the number of materials that correspond to that subject. So if geography includes a notebook, a textbook, a workbook, and a handout folder, she will put the number four in parenthesis next to the word geography in her planner.

Next, you will have to help your child get into the habit of using the planner properly. Don’t try to do everything at once. Teach her a little bit each day. When you have taught her everything (and you will probably have to make a list in order to make sure you don’t forget anything), then you can slowly hand over the reins.

Plan to spread out the process over a month, since it takes about 30 days to develop a habit. In the first week, you will teach her how to use the planner, and you will supervise her while she uses it. This is full supervision, meaning she fills in the blanks or checks off work completed, but you stand next to her while she does it.

Don’t try to take short cuts, and don’t try to supervise while cleaning the room or doing the dishes, because then the following conversation will take place: “Why didn’t you finish the second half of your homework? What do you mean you forgot? Didn’t you write it in your planner? But I told you to write it in!”

During the second and third weeks you will gradually decrease the amount of assistance you give your child. You will do this from back to front, meaning the last steps you undertake when preparing with the planner will be the first ones you hand over to your child.

For example, if there are 6 steps involved in using the planner, days 1 and 2 your child will do step 6 unassisted. Days 3 and 4 he will do steps 5 and 6 on his own. Days 5 and 6 he will do steps 4, 5, and 6 on his own, and so on.

5. Set a regular weekly time to help your child de-clutter his bookbag. It may be tempting to schedule a cleaning on a Sunday night, in preparation for the upcoming week. However, this leaves open the possibility of “homework surprises,” - when your child suddenly realizes they have a big test or major paper due the next day.

This should happen less frequently if using the above methods, but unless you’ve implemented a system that insures your child knows he is responsible for getting all his homework in his planner (be on the lookout for a future post!) then it could still happen more often than you would like.

A better choice would be to set a time for the beginning of the weekend. That way if any surprises are awaiting you, they can be dealt with at the beginning of the weekend, instead of at the end. And of course, this also encourages your child to make sure everything is taken care of, since they know that otherwise they will have to spend their free time completing all that work.

Think of this time as a little bit of private time with your child. Avoid recriminations, and just focus on getting the job done pleasantly. Put some music on, set out a plate of healthy snacks. After all, if you have to do the job anyway, why not have fun while you’re at it?

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