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How to Discuss Back to School Expectations With Your Kids

Help Your Child Succeed in School by Setting Expectations

Each school year brings with it new excitement and challenges, especially after a fun-filled summer without regular sleep schedules, activities, or homework.

Whether your child is starting at a new school or entering a new grade, it's helpful to sit down for a family chat about expectations for the coming academic year. Together, you can review past successes, talk about potential challenges, and come up with a solid game plan that sets the tone for a fun and educational school year.

Start talking about returning to school before August

Most kids return to school in late August or early September, but don't wait until the last week or two of summer vacation to start making back to school plans. You could begin the conversation by asking your child what they loved about school last year, and what didn't go so well. Talk about successes and challenges, and be prepared to listen without judgment.

Some additional topics that are worth discussing together include:

  • Homework. Choosing a specific “homework time” each night helps maintain a steady schedule. To make this topic more fun, try setting up a dedicated homework space for each child. Help them decorate it to make it their own, too.
  • Grades. If you expect your child to maintain certain grades, make that expectation clear. Also keep in mind any potential roadblocks to those goals. For example, expecting an A+ in Algebra isn't very realistic if your student has always struggled with math.
  • Chores. Chores still need to be done during the school year!
  • Sleep schedules. When will everyone go to bed, and when is it time to get up and get ready for school? This can be a particularly tricky topic for teenagers, but there are ways to help your teen get more sleep .
  • Friendships. Navigating the murky social waters of K-12 friendships can be difficult for even the most social kids, and this is often a topic that's full of emotions. When setting expectations you might cover when friends can come over, when your child can go to their friends' houses, and similar topics. This is also the perfect opportunity to talk about healthy friendships .

Be realistic about the expectations you set

Are you expecting your children to sit down and do their homework immediately after school each day, without fail? Do you expect them to behave in certain ways, regardless of their internal or external circumstances?

It's important for parents to ground their expectations in reality, which includes sensitivity to their child's age, developmental stage, social acuity, and more. For example, it's normal for a teenager to act irresponsibly or become moody on occasion, and it's normal for a 7-year old to get distracted while doing their homework.

While it's important to set expectations, it's also important to be understanding and empathetic. That doesn't mean rules aren't enforced, or that actions don't have consequences, but it does mean that we should work with our kids as they make the transition back to school each year.

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