If first semester felt a little all over the place, you are not alone! Taking some time now to reflect on the past few months and set goals for the second half of the school year can help you and your child regain some control. A focus on executive functioning strategies can go a long way toward a successful second semester.
Clean out the old to make room for the new! Beginning with organization of both physical and digital documents and supplies is a productive way to begin. Where is your child collecting school work? Laptop? Bookbag? Kitchen counter? First, have them determine what should be thrown out, archived, and kept handy.
Next, assess your child’s organizational system and adjust as needed. Ask these questions to get a better sense of how on top of it they are:
Now that you’ve tackled something tangible, take some time to reflect on first semester with your child. Start with general questions like What went well? What didn’t? What were regular obstacles? What new habits will you need to practice to have a successful second semester? For this to be a productive conversation, try to stick to questions and really listen to what they have to say. Trade in your parent hat for an investigator hat to get to the details that matter.
If those initial questions don’t yield the info you need to get things moving, try these:
With the insights you’ve gained from the first semester reflection, turn to goal-setting. Start with the big goals like getting an A in math, and work backwards to concrete mini-goals such as studying for ten minutes every day. What will your child (and you in some instances) need to do on a daily, weekly, monthly basis to achieve the end goals?
We’ve learned over the years that the more realistic you are, the better – even if that means starting with baby steps. That’s especially true right now! Also, remember that you’re working toward ownership and independence, so be clear with each other about what’s non-negotiable (completing homework) and what’s negotiable (such as which room it’s completed in).
Once you’ve hammered out these measurable steps, figure out a way to track them. We’re big on checklists because they’re clear and easy to use. Also, for many kids, being accountable to a checklist they helped create is much less emotionally charged than being accountable to a parent telling them what to do.
Depending on the mini-goals or steps you come up with, you may choose to start with just a few and then build from there. Think about what’s manageable, and go for what may be a little stretch but not beyond their capabilities. As we’re fond of saying, meet them where they are, not where you wish they were. Tracking in this way is motivational, and it also helps build routines, which leads to good habits.
As second semester progresses, revisit the big goals and adjust the checklists as appropriate in relation to reaching them. It’s easy to forget this vital part of progress, so schedule these conversations well ahead of time and make them something to look forward to. We’ve had parents and children talk through goals over hot chocolate or during a walk through the park. Get comfortable talking about mistakes and setbacks being opportunities to learn and grow!
Developing good student habits takes consistent effort, but in the end it’s so worth it! If you have questions or want to talk through any ideas specific ideas for your child, give us a call or send us a note.