The first week of school holds so much promise and excitement for most kids –new teachers, new subjects, new friends and new clothes! But what’s exciting for some kids is dreadful for others.
As a parent, I know how painful it is when your usually happy kid comes home and announces, “I hate school.”
But we know that “hating school” is usually about something really specific whether they’re feeling panicky over schoolwork, overwhelmed by their schedule or dissed by a friend.
It will take some gentle questioning, but once you find out what the problem is, you can help your child find a solution. Here are four common causes of school blues.
Is it a schedule thing?
After the relatively lazy days of summer, it can be hard to have to get up in the morning and get out the door; not to mention the afterschool squeeze of homework and activities. Combine all these demands and kids can feel stressed just thinking about the upcoming weeks.
What you can do: Sit down with your child to figure out how to maximize their schedule so they can still have some free time. Make sure that they are truly interested in all their extracurriculars. Plan something to look forward to on the weekend. Sometimes kids can feel overwhelmed thinking about all their responsibilities and mapping them out can help.
Is it a schoolwork thing?
Starting more rigorous math classes in middle school or science in high school can make a kid feel like they don’t have a clue what’s going on. Or, maybe they had too much brain drain over the summer and feel lost already.
What you can do: Look over the syllabus to see what is being required for the semester (or week) and help your child put together a study plan. Maybe they need to devote time each night to reviewing key class concepts, or look through a study guide to refresh their brain on last year’s work. This also might be the time to consult a tutor for regular review. Remember that the best time to start working with a tutor is before your child feels hopelessly lost.
Is it a teacher thing?
New teachers can seem daunting to any kid, especially when they have a style your child is not familiar with. Moving from elementary school to middle school is particularly challenging, since all of a sudden they have to navigate six teachers.
What you can do: First off, remind them that teachers can come across gruff at the beginning of the year for one simple reason: they need to gain control of the classroom. Of course, that might just be the style, so also discuss how learning to interact with different personalities can be the key to success in their future years of school and career. Go over the class rules or work expectations, if that seems to be a concern, to make sure she’s clear on the policies and how to do the best she can within the framework provided. Many a teacher who has initially seemed hard to please has become a future inspiration and role model.
Is it friend thing?
Whether your child is starting a new school or just going back after not having seen their buddies all summer, it’s natural to feel disconnected those first few days. Maybe their BFF went to camp with someone else – and found a new BFF. Maybe they have a completely different schedule than their crowd and find themselves in the lunch room with no familiar faces. Or, maybe their friend got a new look and a new crowd over the summer, leaving them behind.
What you can do: Talk with your child about the issue that’s really bothering them – whether it’s one particular friend or feeling left out of a whole group. Sometimes just listening to their concerns can help. If you feel like some advice is in order then encourage them to invite an old friend or new one over to study or just hang out, or see if there’s an extracurricular activity they might want to join that would expose them to a new group of kids.
We can’t fix all of our kid’s problems, but if when we pinpoint what’s really bothering them, we can move the lament from “I hate school” to “This particular aspect is bugging me.” Giving your kids the tools to address the situation and helping them focus on the positives, whether it’s an interesting elective or the upcoming football game, can help the blues dissipate in no time!