Making the Most of This School Year

By Dr. Raymond Huntington

A new school year has begun and you and your child want to get things off on the right foot. Whether last year was your child’s best year yet or he or she faced some challenges, it’s always a good idea to take time at the start of the new year to reflect, set goals, and focus. How can you encourage your child to make this year a great one? Here are several tips for parents:

Set the tone for positivity. A positive attitude will help children overcome hard times in school and life. Parents who embrace an optimistic mindset influence their children to do the same. The goal is to help children believe that every challenge or misstep is an opportunity to grow and become better. Talking about admirable role models who have overcome roadblocks to achieve big things reminds children that nobody has a completely smooth path—and they shouldn’t be discouraged if their journey has bumps along the way.

Explore what went right last year. The simple exercise of reflection is powerful, helping children look back on what they learned, where they were most successful, the experiences with teachers and other students that were most memorable and transformative, and more. Parents can take time as they and their children prepare to go back to school to talk about what went right last year, what they would like to change and whether there are any specific adjustments they want to make, such as their study routine.

Talk about what is (and isn’t) in their control. So much in life isn’t in our control, and it’s an important reminder for children to focus on what is. To succeed in school, children must pay attention in class, give every subject their best effort and ask for help when they need it. When bad grades happen, parents should encourage their children to think about what they could have done to prepare more effectively for the assignment or test and make a plan to do better next time. Children who consistently take ownership of their school experience—and assume responsibility for it—are more grounded and motivated.

Commit to daily organization. Staying organized is a challenge for just about everyone. For children who struggle to keep on top of things, now is the time to revisit the homework routine and determine what needs changing. Parents should go over best practices for using the daily planner to keep track of homework and important dates as well as “housekeeping” items like a good process for filing school paperwork and keeping binders and backpacks tidy. Checklists around the house are useful tools to reinforce those daily to-dos.

Set goals. Goal setting is such an important part of the kickoff to a new school year, encouraging a growth mindset and helping children get into the right frame of mind to give school their best effort this year. Over a few nights, parents should sit down with their children to talk about (and write down) academic and personal goals for the year. There is great value in including in this list some of the steps needed to achieve those goals and discussing how Mom and Dad can offer support.

Even a little effort toward helping your child prepare for a new school year will make a big difference. Your child will feel calmer and more prepared, making for a smooth transition from summer break to school mode—and a happier household overall.

About Huntington

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