Help your Child Improve their Grades in Three Easy Steps

 

We often call this time the “End of the Honeymoon Period” in school.  Why is this?  Well, typically everyone is at their best for the first month or two of school.  That is, teachers are patient and have low expectations regarding their students’ behavior and work habits.  Parents are on high-alert to make sure their child is doing his or her homework and turning it in on time.  Kids are refreshed from a few months off and put their best foot forward.
And then what happens?  Life happens!  Teachers become busy and overwhelmed with papers to grade, Back to School Night, and meetings.  Parents are impressed with their child’s initial effort and begin to back off and focus on the tasks of running their household or working.  Kids miss one assignment, then another, and start to “check out” because of the stress associated with school.

Is this your reality? Now what?!?  Below are three tips to help your child succeed, this week.

1. Check Parent Portal
Most schools now have online access to teachers’ gradebooks.  Teachers are expected to update them regularly and parents are expected to check them!  If your child is in lower elementary school, you may need to check it yourself and make a list of any missing assignments or low grades.  If you have a fourth grader or older, sit with your child and do this together.  Make two lists:  missing assignments and low grades.

If you notice that a certain class or subject consistently scores lower, plan on scheduling a conference with the teacher.  Often, kids will not turn in work when they are confused and feel that they “can’t do it.”  This may indicate gaps in his or her understanding of the content.  For example, if you notice he or she isn’t turning in math assignments, it may be because your child would prefer to get a “0” than a “F.”  Missing work or the appearance of “laziness” is oftentimes a coping mechanism students with learning difficulties use.

If you notice missing assignments across the board, your child may have an executive function problem.  Executive Function is the ability to plan, organize, and remember material.  If you suspect this may be the problem, contact us for an assessment and help.

2. Check your Child’s Planner
Look in the planner provided by your child’s school.  Your child should have written down homework for every subject nearly every day.  If your child has many missing assignments, this may be because he or she isn’t writing down homework and has many “blanks” in their planner. Talk to your child about this.  Does he or she rely on the teacher posting homework online?  Does he or she run out of time to write it down?  Ask!  If your child says they are relying on the teacher to write it down, ask them to write it for themselves, as well.  Teachers are often busy throughout the day and after school and forget to update their webpages.  If he or she runs out of time to write it down, ask your child’s teacher(s) if he or she can take a picture of the board or record homework as a voice memo.

If this is a consistent problem, you may need to require that your child gets his or her planner signed by the teacher every day until he or she is consistently writing down their homework independently.  You will need to continue checking their planner until the matter is resolved.

3. Make a Plan
Based on what you’ve learned about missing assignments and grades, make a plan for moving forward.  This may mean writing out a daily schedule for after school time that looks like this:

 

2:30-3:00 Snack
3:30-4:30 After School Activity (Dance, Soccer, Etc.)
4:30-5:00 Drive
5:00-6:00 Homework
6:00-6:30 Dinner
6:30-7:00 Bath
7:00-7:30 Nightly Reading
7:30-8:00 Relax and Prepare Tomorrow
This schedule will vary based on your child’s age.  Younger children should not have too many after school activities that they are unable to complete their homework and relax with their family.  Older children will have more outside commitments and homework.  They will still need your help in planning their time.  Additionally, they will need your help in enforcing the schedule.  As they become better at managing their time, they will need less support.  However, at the beginning of each school year you will most likely need to revisit the schedule.

Additionally, make a plan to turn in missing work.  Many teachers will give partial credit for late assignments.  Work with your child and their teacher(s) to complete missing assignments in a reasonable amount of time so that they can get back on track.

Finally, remember that we are here to help.  If you need support in accomplishing any of these steps, Center for Learning can make it happen!

Posted in Blog, News-Press | Comments Off on Help your Child Improve their Grades in Three Easy Steps

5 Misconceptions about Common Core‏

The “Common Core” standards have become a topic of debate among parents in Orange County.  One viral video features a mom from Arkansas giving the school board a 4th grade math problem and asking them to solve it… and then telling the board that under the Common Core their answer would be “marked wrong” and, instead, are expected to take “108 steps” to solve it.  Another article says that the Common Core is throwing out cursive.  One newspaper stated that 8th graders will no longer be taking Algebra, therefore, “dumbing down” our standards.  Some Orange County parents say that they will “opt out” of testing and make sure that their kids are not involved with the Common Core.  Others question the standards and ask, “What’s wrong with teaching math the way we learned it?”

What should you make of all of these ideas?  As a parent, it is your job to stay informed about your child’s education and understand expectations put on him or her.  The Center for Learning and Behavioral Solutions hopes to help you stay informed with accurate information so that you can make the best decision for your child:

Misconception #1:  The Common Core “Dumbs Down” Our Standards
In reality, this Common Core is much more rigorous than California’s current state standards.  For example, fourth graders have always been asked to write narratives that describe a situation with sensory (descriptive) details.  They are now being asked to do the same, but to include transition words and dialogue.  There is also a heavy emphasis put on informational texts throughout the reading standards; an area essentially ignored in California’s standards.  For example, eleventh and twelfth graders are expected to “Delineate and evaluate the reasoning in seminal U.S. texts, including the application of constitutional principles and use of legal reasoning (e.g., in U.S. Supreme Court majority opinions and dissents) and the premises, purposes, and arguments in works of public advocacy (e.g., The Federalist, presidential addresses).”  Clearly, language arts standards are adding depth to the past standards.

The Common Core has come under fire in the area of math, specifically.  Rest assured, math is not being “dumbed down.”  Rather, students are expected to draw pictures to justify their answers rather than list basic facts.  They are also being expected to identify errors and remedy them to demonstrate understanding of the concepts behind computation.  Additionally, many of the standards are moving down a grade.  For example, multiplying fractions used to be a fifth grade standard; it is now a fourth grade standard.

If you want to know more about specific standard comparisons, the “Common Core Crosswalk” lines up every previous California standard and compares them to Common Core Standards:

www.scoe.net/castandards/multimedia/k-12_ela_croswalks.pdfwww.scoe.net/castandards/multimedia/k-12_math_crosswalks.pdf

Misconception #2:  Cursive will no longer be taught in the Common Core
Cursive is not in the Common Core.  However, states have the ability to add up to 15% of material to the Common Core (such as adding California history).  California, as well as some other states (Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Massachusetts, North Carolina and Utah as of now), has chosen to add cursive to our standards.  Cursive will still be taught in California.

Misconception #3: Eighth Graders will no longer be taking Algebra

The “Algebra for All” push made 8th grade Algebra mandatory… whether or not your child was ready for it.  Rest assured, Algebra is still being taught—as early as first grade.  However, Algebra as a class is a state decision.  California gives local school districts control over what this looks like.  For example, in Irvine, middle school students can take 7th Grade Common Core Math, 8th Grade Common Core Math, Algebra 1, or Geometry.  Placement is based on open-ended testing in May and June.  Check your local school district for information regarding 8th grade math and/or Algebra 1.

If your child attends school in Irvine, you can find out more here:
https://iusd.org/education_services/Mathematics.html

Misconception #4: The Common Core Standards are costing our State Billions of Dollars
True, implementing new standards costs money (an estimated $1.2 billion per state).  However, California received $1.25 billion to implement the standards and that money is being divided among local districts.  Additionally, public education sets aside money for new textbooks in each subject every six years.  Districts have been adopting supplemental materials to meet their short-term needs and will be adopting new textbooks when they have gone through the adoption process.  This is not a new cost.  Finally, many businesses and community members support the Common Core.  Therefore, they are providing funding and materials (like computers) to implement the standards.  Because the standards are national, many online resources are available and can be shared amongst states in a way that was never possible in the past.

Misconception #5: It’s a Good Idea to Opt-Out of Testing
California law allows parents to opt-out of any standardized test by simply writing a note.  Proponents of opting out cite a desire to demonstrate their disapproval of testing, in general, and the time it takes away from teaching and learning in the classroom.  Although this sentiment is well-intentioned, it fails to take into account the benefits of assessment and its role in teaching and learning.
Next year, students in grades 3-8 and 11 will participate in the CAASP (California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress).  This includes Smarter Balanced assessments for math and English-language arts, the CST (California Standards tests) for science in grades 5, 8, and 10, or possibly the CMA or CAPA for science (both modified tests).  None of this is new… except for the Smarter Balanced Assessments.  These are computer adaptive tests, meaning that questions adjust based on student performance, and include performance tasks unlike the CST of the past.  Districts began piloting the tests last year and will continue to do so this year.

Some parents think opting out this year is a good idea, but we would argue otherwise.  Because it’s a new test, we believe it is a good idea to allow your child to experience the test much as they would a practice test.  The stakes are low and there is a lot to gain.  Increased comfort with the procedures for taking the test on a computer, experience with the types of questions being asked, and gaining general test-taking strategies will benefit your child during the 2014-2015 school year when testing will be put in place.

What’s a Parent to Do?
The reality is, if your child is attending or will attend a California public school, the Common Core Standards will guide their experience in education.  Additionally, if your child attends a private school, he or she will eventually be exposed to the material through textbooks and possibly the school’s policy regarding the implementation of the standards in classrooms.  As a parent, you want to be sure that you prepare your child as best as you can.  At Center for Learning, we have been working hard to align our instruction with what our students are being expected to do in public and private schools throughout Orange County.  You can expect that those most precious to you are in good hands.

Posted in Blog | Comments Off on 5 Misconceptions about Common Core‏

Adults with ADHD

Adults with ADHD: Six Strategies for Building and Maintaining Healthy Relationships in your Family

ADHD impacts every aspect of one’s life. When you look on the web or bookstore, there is quite a lot of information about “How to Parent” a child with ADHD. But what if YOU, the parent, have ADHD? How do you parent your child? How do you maintain a relationship with your spouse or partner? Keep reading to learn a few tips for maintaining positive and healthy relationships with your child and spouse.

 

1. Educate Yourself and Your Spouse

The first step in building and maintaining healthy relationships with others is to understand yourself. Research symptoms of ADHD here. If you believe you have ADHD, it may be helpful to find a healthcare professional that can evaluate and diagnose you. Your primary care doctor or Center for Learning can guide you through this process.

2. Take Care of Yourself

Once you have been diagnosed with ADHD, it is important to get help. This may include medication and/or psychotherapy. Your doctor can help you find an appropriate dosage for medication. Your insurance carrier can direct you to clinicians with expertise who participate in your insurance plan. Additionally, make time to exercise and/or meditate. Mindfulness practice can be powerful in increasing focus and attention, as well.

3. Get Organized

If you have ADHD, it is essential to set up systems that work for you and your family. This may include phone reminders such as when it’s time to pay the bills or setting up a system for checking your child’s planner and homework each night. Because organization and time management is a challenge for those with ADHD, work with your partner and child to create structure for daily, weekly, and monthly tasks in your home. Structure and routine lessens conflict over daily tasks and frees you up to spend more time with your loved ones.

4. Schedule Time to Connect

As someone with ADHD, you may become easily distracted and spend hours on the computer or another task rather than connecting with people. Schedule regular date nights with your spouse and one-on-one time with your child doing something they love.

5. Adjust Your Expectations

Don’t try to do it all and don’t expect yourself or those around you to be perfect, either. Be realistic and let the small stuff go. For example, reminding and helping your child to put completed homework in the backpack and organize school materials for the next day may be more important than arguing about having a clean room. Sitting down for a family meal may take precedence over answering emails. There is only so much time in the day; choose carefully.

6. Seek Support

CHADD (Children and Adults with Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorders) offers support groups for both those with ADHD and for spouses of those with ADHD. They also offer online parenting workshops. Center for Learning offers Educational Therapy for school-aged individuals geared towards meeting the needs of students with ADHD as well as family and individual therapy. There are many resources available in Orange County to help you.

Posted in Blog | Comments Off on Adults with ADHD

12 Scientifically Proven Steps to Happiness

Here are the 12 scientifically proven steps to happiness discussed by Sonja Lyubomirsky in her book The How of Happiness. Sonja is a Professor of Psychology at the University of California, Riverside and her work which at one point also focused on the possibility of permanently increasing happiness, has received a great deal on attention from TV stations, radio stations, magazines and newspapers all over the world.

1. EXPRESS GRATITUDE 
The life you are now living, express your gratitude for it, the mistakes you made in the past and all the lessons you’ve learned, express your gratitude for them. Look for the good in your life and appreciate it.

The single greatest thing you can do to change your life today would be to start being grateful for what you have right now. And the more grateful you are, the more you get. ~Oprah


2. CULTIVATE OPTIMISM

Expect the best from life and you will receive the very best. Life doesn’t care whether you are a pessimist or an optimist, whether you focus on the good or the bad, whether you expect the worse or the best from life. Life will treat you exactly the way you expect to be treated and if that’s the case then you should definitely start cultivating your optimism.

The optimist sees the rose and not its thorns; the pessimist stares at the thorns, oblivious to the rose. ~Kahlil Gibran


3. AVOID OVER-THINKING AND SOCIAL COMPARISON

Our lives and where we are right now are the result of all the thoughts we had since birth up until now. If you don’t like something, see if you can change it but if you can’t change it, don’t stress about it and just let it go. Change your attitude towards life and life will change its attitude towards you. Look for ways to be better than you used to be and not better than anyone else. Spend your time and energy improving yourself and your life and you will no longer feel the need to compete and compare yourself with others.

Stop thinking, and end your problems. What difference between yes and no? What difference between success and failure? Must you value what others value, avoid what others avoid? How ridiculous! ~Lao Tzu


4. PRACTICE ACTS OF KINDNESS

Be kind to others and to yourself and you will be happy.

If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion. ~Dalai Lama


5. NURTURE SOCIAL RELATIONSHIPS

Go out and meet new people, socialize, get interested in what others are doing and they will automatically get interested in what you are also doing.


6. DEVELOP STRATEGIES FOR COPING
 
Work on developing strategies for coping by observing your thoughts and playing with your mind. Be the lab scientist and not the rat.

There are times in everyone’s life when something constructive is born out of adversity. . . when things seem so bad that you’ve got to grab your fate by the shoulders and shake it. ~Anon


7. LEARN TO FORGIVE
 
Learn to forgive yourself and those people who might have hurt you in the past. The moment you forgive, you free yourself from pain and you allow happiness to enter your life once again.

Forgiveness means that you fill yourself with love and you radiate that love outward and refuse to hang onto the venom or hatred that was engendered by the behaviors that caused the wounds. ~Wayne Dyer


8. INCREASE FLOW EXPERIENCES

Work with your unique gifts and talents, work with your passions, manage your weaknesses but cultivate your strengths and by doing so you will increase the flow experiences and become more happy.

Everyone has unique gifts and talents. What you love is what you’re gifted at. To be completely happy, to live a completely fulfilled life, you have to do what you love. ~Barbara Sher


9. SAVOR LIFE’S JOY

Look at the sun, look at the trees, look at the beauty of nature, beauty of life and savor it all.

Enjoy the little things, for one day you may look back and realize they were the big things. ~Robert Brault


10. COMMIT TO YOUR GOALS

If you want to be happy, you have to have goals. Know what is it that you want from life, ask for it and trust that in the end you will receive it.  Make sure you set all kinds of goals, personal goals, career goals, adventure goals, contribution goals and by doing so you will have a sense of direction, security and trust into your life.

If you want to live a happy life, tie it to a goal, not to people or things. ~Albert Einstein


11. PRACTICE RELIGION/ SPIRITUALITY

Religion/spirituality makes people feel safe and secure, it gives them strength when in danger and faith when in doubt. There is an invisible force that created us all and this force is watching over us. By knowing this you become a lot happier and at peace due to the fact that you feel you are not alone.

The further the spiritual evolution of mankind advances, the more certain it seems to me that the path to genuine religiosity does not lie through the fear of life, and the fear of death, and blind faith, but through striving after rational knowledge.~Einstein


12. TAKE CARE OF YOUR BODY

Your body is your temple and the way you feel internally will reflect externally. Exercise whenever possible, make sure you drink plenty of water- water is life, and eat as healthy as possible.

Take care of your body. It’s the only place you have to live.
~Jim Rohn

Good for the body is the work of the body, good for the soul the work of the soul, and good for either the work of the other.~Henry David Thoreau

(An excerpt from Sonja Lyubomirsky’s book, The How of Happiness)

Posted in Blog | Comments Off on 12 Scientifically Proven Steps to Happiness

Seven Tips for a Stress-Free Holiday Season

The countdown to the holiday season has begun.  Holiday decorations are up, the malls are packed, and your calendar is full.  Although the holidays are a time that we typically look forward to, it can also be a stressful time for many families.  The busyness and rush to get everything done can make parents feel a little crazed… which can make our kids feel that way, too.

Children need consistency, stability, and routine: the exact opposite of that the holiday season has to offer.  The following tips will help children, and in turn, help the whole family, feel a little less stressed during this busy time of year:

  1. Don’t overschedule: Try to keep with your routine as much as possible.  If you have young children, plan time for naps and relaxation into your day.  If you have school-aged children, pick one or two holiday events to attend as a family.  You don’t have to cram everything into a single year.
  2. Be realistic about holiday gifts:  Very small children don’t need or want lots of gifts.  A new board book, a cuddly stuffed animal, and a toy for being active (like building blocks) is plenty.  Limit yourself to four or five gifts for older children.  Take turns opening gifts to allow time to savor the gifts you have chosen for each other.  Let your hard-to-shop-for teenager shop for his or her gifts with you.
  3. Spend time together as a family:  Rushing from event to event leaves little time for you to truly savor the spirit of the season.  Plan an afternoon to watch a favorite holiday movie, decorate cookies, or dance to or sing favorite music at home!
  4. Be aware of what your family is eating:  Prepare a small meal or healthy snack for your child before going to a dinner party.  Indulge in treats in moderation.
  5. Be aware of bedtimes and transition periods: It is difficult for children to transition from a party and be expected to go straight to bed.  Plan to spend at least 30 minutes prior to bedtime allowing your child to wind down.  Give them time to take a bath, read stories, and sit and talk with you about your day.  Lower the lights to bring down the energy level.  Also, give warnings of transition periods to help avoid meltdowns.
  6. Call a truce during the holiday season:   If you are divorced, take a break from complaints and arguments… for your kids’ sake and yours.  Your children are keenly aware of the tension between you.  Try to keep things friendly and light.
  7. Introduce your child to mindfulness techniques: Model breathing techniques (breathe in and then let the air out saying, “aaaah”), visualize putting feelings in bubbles and watch them float away, make positive affirmations about what they are grateful for and what they like about themselves and others.

Finally, think about your own holiday experiences from your childhood.  The holiday season presents a window of opportunity to model lessons of appreciation and gratitude.  “What we say and do and how we go about conducting our daily affairs sets a permanent mark in our children’s conscious and subconscious minds. It is easy to see how impressionable children are as we reflect back on our own childhood experiences,” says Dr. Ansari, Director of the Center for Learning and Behavioral Solutions.  “Ask yourself: How often do we genuinely express, both with our words and in our daily actions, our gratitude for all the blessings, no matter how small or big?”

Dr. Ansari recommends taking this mindset:  I am in control of my own holiday season. It’s easy to want to blame others, or outside circumstances for the stress I am feeling, but the truth is most stress is a direct or indirect result of a choice that I have made.

This season, staying mindful about your surroundings, decisions, commitments and self are the key to reducing stress during the holidays.  We hope you enjoy the season for all it’s meant to be.

Posted in Blog | Comments Off on Seven Tips for a Stress-Free Holiday Season

What Kind of Help Does Your Child Need?

What Kind of Help Does Your Child NeedWe are exiting what many professionals call, “The Honeymoon Period” of the school year. That means that students are starting to feel disillusioned that this school year will be any better than the last, parents have stepped away thinking their kids are doing fine, and teachers are starting to increase the challenges in the classroom.  Although the year started out well, it is quickly going south. Your child’s school may have already sent out or may be coming out with a “Progress Report” in the next week or so.  Despite your child telling you that they are doing “fine” in school, this is often the first indication that this isn’t the case.  So, what should you do to help your child?

 

At home, you can implement the following steps:

  • Check your child’s planner, nightly, to make sure that homework is written down.
  • Ask to see each piece of completed homework.  Your child may protest and say they are “done” with it if you don’t require them to show it to you.
  • Spot check a few problems or questions for correctness.
  • If you notice errors, look more carefully at the work.
  • Review difficult concepts before it is too late (well before a test).
  • Praise your child for completed assignments and filling out his or her planner in detail.
  • When your child has a long-term assignment, help him or her break it up into manageable pieces and write those pieces into the planner.
  • When your child has a test, break concepts to study up into manageable pieces, write the study plan in the planner, and help your child study by quizzing him or her in the car on the way to and from activities.
  • Check your child’s grades at least once a week if they are published online.  It may be particularly useful to do this on a Thursday so that incomplete work can be gathered on a Friday and completed over the weekend.
  • Contact your child’s teacher and set up a conference if you notice him or her having problems in certain content areas (math, writing, etc.).  Primary grade parents may attend the conference alone, upper grade and middle school parents should bring their child with them, and high school students should feel comfortable talking with the teacher alone or be the main participant in a conference with parents.

If you are doing all that you can to support your child at home, you may need to enlist the help of a professional.  Many parents hire a “tutor” without really knowing the skills that different types of educational professionals can offer.

  • A “homework helper” may be an older student (for example, a high school student helping a 5th grader) who helps complete nightly or weekly assignments.  A homework helper can be a trusted family friend or neighbor.  Often, these students provide the motivation and support to encourage a child who isn’t completing assignments because they seem too overwhelming or difficult.  Most parents can fill this role when their child becomes confused or unfocused, but some may find it helpful to have this kind of support.  This kind of help may reduce the stress of the evening for the family.
  • A “tutor” may be a high school or college student with expertise in a particular subject area.  For example, a tutor may be a biology major that is able to explain concepts to a middle or high school student.  Tutors are very helpful if the child doesn’t understand the concepts associated with a particular subject.  Tutors do not usually have experience “teaching” subjects to students with different learning needs.  You may be able to find a tutor through your child’s teacher, school district, or online.  Tutoring centers typically have set programs that students use to gain skills.  These programs do not typically take individual learning strengths and needs into account.
  • An “educational therapist” specializes in learning disabilities or behavioral problems that may be impeding learning.  Many hold their teaching credentials.  An educational therapist has been trained in the nuances of specific disabilities and in programs that will help your child fill the “gaps” in learning that he or she may have.  Most focus on strengthening the skills that the child needs to be able to keep up with content in the classroom.  The goal of an educational therapist is to build on your child’s strengths and create coping mechanisms for weaknesses.  The Center for Learning and Behavioral Solutions has educational therapists that specialize in teaching reading, writing, and math to students diagnosed with Executive Function deficits, giftedness, ADHD, Autism Spectrum Disorder, and other common learning disabilities.  He or she will also work closely with you to create a positive learning environment at home and with your child’s teacher to monitor progress in content areas.

Before choosing the kind of help that your child needs, be sure you think about the kinds of support that you have tried in the past (for example, if you tried a tutor before and it didn’t help, you may need an educational therapist).  Talk to your child’s teacher about the kinds of issues that he or she sees in the class.  Ask for references, as well.

Posted in Blog | Comments Off on What Kind of Help Does Your Child Need?

Back to School Tips for Parents

Home
As summer comes to a close and families gear up for school, it is important to recognize that we, as parents, can influence our children’s attitude and performance in school.  The transition from the summer to fall can be challenging for both parents and students.  Although every child transitions differently, parents can help by using a few of these tips:
 

Before School Begins:

Mark your calendar with important dates: Many schools post their calendars online over the summer.  Activities such as parent conference week with early dismissal days and Back to School Night come quickly at the beginning of the year.  Plan ahead and arrange for babysitting, if necessary.

Practice going to school: “Play school” at home with your younger child to help them learn how to act at school.

Practice your good-bye ritual: Whether it is a high-five hand slap, a kiss on the cheek, saying “have a great day” or “see you soon,” practice it at home and stick to it every day.

Buy school supplies:  You may be able to find supply lists on your child’s school’s website or at local office supply stores.  Save receipts so that you can make returns, later.

Re-establish routines: At least one week prior to the beginning of school, re-establish bedtime and mealtimes (especially breakfast) routines.

Visit school: If your child is younger and will be in a different part of the building, or if they are switching to a new school, help your child locate their potential classrooms, lunch areas, etc.  If your child is older and attending middle or high school, enlist the help of an older sibling or friend to give them a tour of lockers, the cafeteria, etc

Create a homework space: Older children need a quiet place in a separate part of the house away from the distractions of younger siblings, the TV, or dinner preparation.  Younger children need an area where monitoring and encouragement can occur.  You can make a tri-fold homework corner to divide an area like the kitchen table up for each child: Cozy Homework Corner

Set up a spot to keep backpacks and lunch boxes:  Designate a spot to hang backpacks, write notes of encouragement, hang weekly newsletters, and post schedules for each of your children.  Here’s a sample of one we love: Children’s Homework Message Center

Get back into the habit of planning dinners ahead of time and grocery shopping once a week.  Freeze a few easy dinners to make meal preparation easier.  We’re all busy, but gathering around the dinner table together allows you to check in with your child about their day and talk about any problems that they’re having.  Here are some quick and easy back-to-school dinners: Quick and Easy Back to School Dinners

The First Week:

Clear your own schedule:  Because the first week back is stressful for everyone, try to postpone late night meetings or extra activities so that you can be free to help your child acclimate to the school routine and overcome anxiety that he or she may feel.

Make lunches the night before school.  Healthy lunches help your child to stay energized throughout the school day.  Take a look at this post about easy lunch box time savers: Lunch Box Time Savers

Create reminders for your child:  Use an index card or your child’s school planner to write down pertinent information such as their teacher’s name and classroom number, your contact information (especially for younger children), and carpool buddy’s or family member’s contact information. And anything else that they may need to feel confident that they have all of the information they need to be successful away from you.

Introduce yourself to your child’s teacher or homeroom teacher: Whether you say hi during pickup or send a brief email, it is nice to show the teacher that you view them as a partner in your child’s learning.  A small gift card to a coffee shop, a baked good, or a note of appreciation may help to convey your appreciation for their influence in your child’s life.

Overcoming Anxiety:

Listen to your child’s concerns about going to school and validate them: Whether or not they want to attend school, they will have to.  If your child says that they don’t want to go, say, “In our family, we don’t say we don’t want to go.  Instead, we talk about how we’re going to make school fun and work through the challenges that we have there.”

Recognize that school is often unpredictable, which leads to stress: Students may have a substitute teacher, their best friend may be sick, there may be a fire drill, or they may deal with social disappointment.  Teach your child how to cope with these unknowns and talk about solutions as problems arise.

Let your children know you care:  Send notes or texts reinforcing their ability to cope.  Remind them that it is normal to feel nervous; but that they will be just fine once they becomes more familiar with the new teacher, classmates, and school routine.

Try not to overreact: Young children may experience separation anxiety or shyness but teachers know what to do to help them.  Try not to linger.  Simply reassure them that you love them, will think of them during the day, and will be back.

Extracurricular Activities:

Allow time for play:  The American Academy of Pediatrics suggests that parents set aside time for their children to participate in free, unstructured play.  One or two structured activities (baseball, dance class, piano lessons, etc.) a week are fun and teach new skills, but too much scheduled time can make it harder to concentrate on schoolwork and may lead to perfectionistic tendencies.

Plan ahead:  Certain days of the week (such as Fridays and Mondays) may be more difficult than others.  For example, your child may have a spelling or math test each Friday and their homework packet may be due each Monday.  Try to arrange your child’s activity schedule with this information in mind and make sure that he or she gets plenty of rest the night before.

When Problems Arise:

The Center for Learning and Behavioral Solutions offers a great deal of help for children struggling with the academic, organizational, and social-emotional demands of school.  Your child may benefit from training in planning and carrying out tasks, speaking to a professional about problems with friends or teachers and coping with the anxiety they are feeling, or academic support in areas of need.  Contact us today to learn more about our services – info@c4l.net.

Source:
Back-to-School Transitions: Tips for Parents By Ted Feinberg, EdD, NCSP, & Katherine C. Cowan  www.nasponline.org

Posted in Blog | Comments Off on Back to School Tips for Parents

School’s Out for Summer: Helping Your Child Stay Engaged as a Learner

As the school year winds down, you may be looking forward to vacations, beach days, summer camp, and other relaxing family activities.  It is important to keep in mind, however, that children need to stay engaged, as learners, during the summer months to hold on to the learning that has occurred over the year so that they can return to school in September ready to learn!  If no learning takes place over the summer, many students find it difficult to transition back to school, both socially and academically.  Here are a few activities for helping to keep your child engaged throughout the summer:

  • Look at science and social studies standards for your child’s next grade level.  Plan a few day trips to places that introduce them to these concepts.  For example, visit a local estuary before second grade to learn about life cycles of the butterfly, go to a planetarium to learn about the solar system before fifth grade, or take a trip to a mission or rancho before fourth grade.
  • If your child has school assignments for the summer, create a schedule for completing them.  Schedule a little time each day to work on them throughout July and August.
  • Encourage your child to visit with school friends.
  • Have your child write a play and make puppets for “puppet theater” out of felt, markers, and yarn.  Then, encourage them to work with neighbors or friends to perform the play for friends and family members.
  • When heading to the movies, ask your child to assist in computing the cost of tickets/snacks for the family and/or make plans for when you need to leave and arrive for the show.
  • Have your child attend day camp or sleep away camp, if possible.
  • Find science kits online for fun experiments that can be completed at home.
  • Encourage your child to learn a musical instrument or another new skill over the summer.
  • Involve your child in helping you cook.  Recipes are a great way to practice measuring skills and following directions.  Ask them to research and plan a meal for the family.
  • Look into Summer Reading Programs at the library and local bookstores (see links).  Many offer rewards for reading a certain number of books.
  • Have your child compute the cost of gas for a family trip, requiring them to research the distance and cost of gas to find the total.
  • Ask your child to prepare a “Current Event” report for dinner table discussions.  They should be ready to share a couple of facts and one opinion about the topic they’ve learned about through the TV/internet/newspaper.  Young children can share news about their day.
  • Provide authentic writing opportunities:  ask him or her to write a packing list before a trip, prepare a grocery store list, compose a wish list for family summer activities, write cards for friends and family detailing summer activities, record reminders, or keep a journal.
  • Often, kids need to join you on errands over the summer.  Ask your child to help you find certain items, mentally compute the amount that you will be spending at the checkout, or compute how much change to expect for a smaller purchase.
  • During a family trip, encourage your child to collect and read brochures, gather mementos, and purchase postcards.  Help your child create a photobook or scrapbook filled with pictures taken and captions written by them.
  • Summer is a great time for kids to read high-interest works such as appropriate magazines, newspapers, and internet articles.  Be sure you monitor your child whenever he or she is on the computer.

 

Helping Your Child Stay Engaged as a Learner

As the school year winds down, you may be looking forward to vacations, beach days, summer camp, and other relaxing family activities.  It is important to keep in mind, however, that children need to stay engaged, as learners, during the summer months to hold on to the learning that has occurred over the year so that they can return to school in September ready to learn!  If no learning takes place over the summer, many students find it difficult to transition back to school, both socially and academically.  Here are a few activities for helping to keep your child engaged throughout the summer:

  • Look at science and social studies standards for your child’s next grade level.  Plan a few day trips to places that introduce them to these concepts.  For example, visit a local estuary before second grade to learn about life cycles of the butterfly, go to a planetarium to learn about the solar system before fifth grade, or take a trip to a mission or rancho before fourth grade.
  • If your child has school assignments for the summer, create a schedule for completing them.  Schedule a little time each day to work on them throughout July and August.
  • Encourage your child to visit with school friends.
  • Have your child write a play and make puppets for “puppet theater” out of felt, markers, and yarn.  Then, encourage them to work with neighbors or friends to perform the play for friends and family members.
  • When heading to the movies, ask your child to assist in computing the cost of tickets/snacks for the family and/or make plans for when you need to leave and arrive for the show.
  • Have your child attend day camp or sleep away camp, if possible.
  • Find science kits online for fun experiments that can be completed at home.
  • Encourage your child to learn a musical instrument or another new skill over the summer.
  • Involve your child in helping you cook.  Recipes are a great way to practice measuring skills and following directions.  Ask them to research and plan a meal for the family.
  • Look into Summer Reading Programs at the library and local bookstores (see links).  Many offer rewards for reading a certain number of books.
  • Have your child compute the cost of gas for a family trip, requiring them to research the distance and cost of gas to find the total.
  • Ask your child to prepare a “Current Event” report for dinner table discussions.  They should be ready to share a couple of facts and one opinion about the topic they’ve learned about through the TV/internet/newspaper.  Young children can share news about their day.
  • Provide authentic writing opportunities:  ask him or her to write a packing list before a trip, prepare a grocery store list, compose a wish list for family summer activities, write cards for friends and family detailing summer activities, record reminders, or keep a journal.
  • Often, kids need to join you on errands over the summer.  Ask your child to help you find certain items, mentally compute the amount that you will be spending at the checkout, or compute how much change to expect for a smaller purchase.
  • During a family trip, encourage your child to collect and read brochures, gather mementos, and purchase postcards.  Help your child create a photobook or scrapbook filled with pictures taken and captions written by them.
  • Summer is a great time for kids to read high-interest works such as appropriate magazines, newspapers, and internet articles.  Be sure you monitor your child whenever he or she is on the computer.

 

The Power of Mindfulness

By Juliann Garey

 

JuneNewsBy now there’s a good chance you’ve heard the term “mindfulness.” Suddenly, it seems to be everywhere—touted as the new yoga, the answer to stress, the alternative to Xanax. But beyond the buzz, what is it? Jon Kabat-Zinn, the scientist and widely recognized father of contemporary, medically-based mindfulness—over 30 years ago he developed a therapeutic meditation practice known as Mindful Based Stress Reduction (MBSR)—defines mindfulness simply as “paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment and non-judgmentally.”That’s the short version. To expand on that just a little, mindfulness is a meditation practice that begins with paying attention to breathing in order to focus on the here and now—not what might have been or what you’re worried could be. The ultimate goal is to give you enough distance from disturbing thoughts and emotions to be able to observe them without immediately reacting to them.In the last few years mindfulness has emerged as a way of treating children and adolescents with conditions ranging from ADHD to anxiety, autism spectrum disorders, depression and stress. And the benefits are proving to be tremendous.But how do you explain mindfulness to a five year-old? When she’s teaching mindfulness to children, Dr. Amy Saltzman, a holistic physician and mindfulness coach in Menlo Park, California, prefers not to define the word but rather to invite the child to feel the experience first—to find their “still quiet place.”

“We begin by paying attention to breath,” she says. “The feeling of the expansion of the in-breath, the stillness between the in-breath and the out-breath. I invite them to rest in the space between the breaths. Then I explain that this still quiet place is always with us—when we’re sad, when we’re angry, excited, happy, frustrated. They can feel it in their bodies. And it becomes a felt experience of awareness. They can learn to observe their thoughts and feelings, and the biggest thing for me is they can begin to choose their behaviors.”

In her private practice, Saltzman, and her Still Quiet Place CDs for Young Children and Teens, teaches mindfulness to children and adolescents with a variety of challenges. “I work with kids individually with ADHD, with anxiety, depression, autism, anger management issues. The lovely thing about working one-on-one is you get to tailor what you offer to them.”

Saltzman also conducted a study in conjunction with researchers at Stanford University showing that after 8 weeks of mindfulness training, the fourth through sixth graders in the study had documented decreases in anxiety, and improvements in attention. They were less emotionally reactive and more able to handle daily challenges and choose their behavior.

As a teacher at The Nantucket New School where every student gets instruction in mindfulness, Allison Johnson has learned first hand what a difference it can make for kids. So she tried it at home. “I have a six-year-old son with ADHD,” she says. “I brought a chime home. We use it most nights before bed. ‘Cause he doesn’t love going to sleep. We sit on the floor facing each other, we close our eyes and we ring the chime. Sometimes we incorporate a visualization—like he’s floating on a cloud. We go on this little journey. And we ring the chime again and we say ‘when you can no longer hear the chime it’s time to open your eyes and come back to focus.’ And now if he gets in trouble and gets sent to his room, I can hear him upstairs doing it himself. Or when he’s getting unusually rowdy he’ll say ‘okay lets do our mindful breathing now.'” Johnson says since Curren started practicing mindfulness she’s seen subtle but noticeable differences in his behavior. “He’s more able to bring his focus and attention back to where they were—remembering to raise his hand and not move around so much.”

While the research on children and adolescents is really just beginning to gain real traction, there are several small studies showing that for kids who suffer from anxiety and ADHD, mindfulness can be especially helpful. Diana Winston, author of Wide Awake and the Director of Mindfulness Education at UCLA’s Mindful Awareness Research Center, started taking teens with ADHD on retreats for what she calls “mindfulness intensive camp” back in 1993. Twenty years later the program is still going strong.

“Teens benefit tremendously,” she says. “Kids talk about their lives being transformed. I remember one girl with ADD who’d been very depressed and I didn’t think we were reaching her. On the last day of class she came in and said, ‘everything is different. I was really depressed. My boyfriend broke up with me and it’s been so hard but I’m finally understanding that I’m not my thoughts.’ That concept is huge—the non-identifying with the negative thoughts and having a little more space and freedom in the midst of it.”

Stress reduction and self-acceptance are two of the major perks of mindfulness, benefits Winston says are particularly important during the drama and turmoil-filled teen years. “Emotional regulation, learning how to quiet one’s mind—those are invaluable skills.”

Randye Semple, PhD, an assistant professor at the University of Southern California’s Keck School of Medicine, has spent her career developing programs to teach anxious kids how to quiet their minds. “When I look at childhood anxiety I see an enormous problem and a precursor to other problems in adolescents and adults,” she says. “So I figured if we could manage the anxiety we could head off a lot of the other problems.” Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy for Anxious Children, the book she co-authored, is based on the program she developed. A study she and her co-author, clinical psychologist Jennifer Lee, conducted from 2000-2003 showed significant reductions in both anxiety and behavior problems in 8- to 12-year-olds in Harlem and Spanish Harlem who participated in the program.

Teaching mindfulness to children and adolescents is a growing trend—in private practices as part of therapy and increasingly as part of the curriculum in both Special Ed and General Ed classes throughout the country. “We’re at the beginning of a movement,” says Megan Cowan, co-founder and executive director of programs at Mindful Schools in Oakland, California. “Jon Kabat-Zinn’s work really set the stage for mindfulness to be visible on a mainstream landscape. I think we all have the sense that society’s a little out of control. Education is a little out of control. We’re all looking for a way to change that. This is meaningful to almost everybody.”

Published: April 9, 2011

Source: Child Mind Institute

Recognizing Mental Health Problems

Mental Heatlth MonthAs school begins to wind down and families prepare for summer, an important awareness campaign is being launched: Mental Health Awareness Month. Of particular interest is the way that mental health disease impacts the children in our society.  Studies have found that 1 in 5 children are living with a diagnosable mental health problem and two-thirds of these children get little or no help.  Untreated mental problems can negatively impact a child’s ability to function successfully both at home and in school.  These children are more susceptible to experience failure in school, encounter the criminal justice system, feel depressed, and have an increased risk of suicide.  Typically, parents wait 8 to 10 years from the onset of symptoms to seek intervention for their child.

If your child has any of the following signs, they may need professional help:

  • Decline in school performance
  • Poor grades despite a strong effort
  • Constant worry or anxiety
  • Repeated refusal to go to school or to take part in normal activities
  • Hyperactivity or fidgeting
  • Persistent nightmares
  • Persistent disobedience or aggression
  • Frequent temper tantrums
  • Depression, sadness, or irritability

If you suspect that your child is suffering from any of these symptoms or if you have questions about them, seek help immediately.  Your child’s pediatrician and the Center for Learning and Behavioral Solutions are here to help.  Your child can undergo a comprehensive assessment that may confirm or rule out possible mental conditions such as a learning disability, developmental delays, ADHD, or depression.  With early identification, your child can avoid unnecessary struggles and live a successful life.

Sources: 
Mental Health America
National Alliance on Mental Illness
Child Mind Institute

What Every Child Needs for Good Mental Health

Many parents understand and recognize their child’s need for good physical health but do not think about supporting their child’s mental health.  Good mental health allows children to think clearly, develop socially, and learn new skills.  In order to meet their child’s basic mental health needs (receive unconditional love from family, build self-confidence and high self-esteem, play with other children, have supportive teachers and caregivers,  receive appropriate guidance and discipline, and live in safe and secure surroundings), there are many things that parents can do to support their child’s mental health:

  • Love your child despite his or her accomplishments and failures.  Mistakes should be expected and accepted.
  • Nurture your child’s confidence and self-esteem.
    • Praise them and be an active participant in their activities
    • Help your child set realistic goals
    • Be honest about your own failures
    • Avoid sarcasm
    • Encourage your child to always try their best and enjoy the process, not the product of their efforts
  • Make time for play.  Running around and playing with peers helps children be physically and mentally healthy.  Through play, children discover their own strengths and weaknesses, develop a sense of belonging, and learn how to get along with others.  You can play with them, too.  Games and coloring give you an opportunity to connect with your child.  Monitor “screen time” and set limits on TV, computer/ipad/phone use, etc.
  • Children need to know that certain behaviors are unacceptable and have consequences.  Be firm, but kind and realistic, with your expectations.  Criticize the behavior (“In our house we do not hit.”) rather than the child (“You are a bad boy or girl.”)  Explain why you are disciplining them and what the consequences of their actions are (“You are going on time out because you could have really hurt yourself or someone else.”)
  • Provide a safe and secure home where your child is able to share his or her fears.  Be loving, patient, and reassuring: fears are very real to children.

Helping your child develop good mental health is just as important as helping them have good physical health.  If you suspect that your child is experiencing mental health problems, contact your child’s pediatrician or the Center for Learning and Behavioral Solutions to seek help.

Source: Mental Health America


Posted in Blog, News-Press | Comments Off on Recognizing Mental Health Problems
© Copyright 2019 Center For Learning