It's easy to be negative about your child's school experience, defined as it may be by struggles and battles and shortfalls and stress. Having a good attitude about all that is hard for your child, and hard for you. It's worth trying, though -- an upbeat outlook will make a big difference for your child, and it has to start with you. Here are eight ways to accentuate the positive and stay on the sunny side.
1. Fill out a Positive Student Profile on your child.You've prepared the packet about all your child's special needs. Now flip that around, and fill the teacher in on all the good things about your child. Besides making the classroom a more appreciative place, thinking of information to put on a Positive Student Profile form can boost your appreciation of your child and brighten your own outlook. There's still room for including challenges and supports, but placed in the positive context of helping a super kid thrive.
2. If you can't say anything nice about school, don't say anything.Kids have big ears, even the ones who don't seem to understand. Your child needs to feel that all the adults in his or her life are working together -- so if you must vent your frustration with a teacher or school situation, pick a time and place where your child won't be in the path of all those negative emotions. (As a bonus, you won't have to worry about your little parrot echoing some angry thing you've said to the educator in question).
3. Find something good to say about your child's work.There's always something, if you look hard enough. A bad grade on a test may be better than a worse grade the week before, or your child may have shown good understanding of one hard concept among all the ones misunderstood. Complement hard work on homework even if the answers are ultimately wrong, time spent on penmanship even if the work's still messy. Doing things right is important, but first you have to try. Give As for effort all over the place.
4. Send nice notes to school.Tuck a note in your child's bookbag, slip a bookmark in a schoolbook, write a note on a napkin in a lunch sack, and find every innovative way you can to give your child a little parent-provided boost in the middle of a stressful day. Your child may act a bit embarrassed by it, but most likely it will provide help where it counts. Use messages that emphasize your belief and pride in your child.
5. Advocate for Positive Behavioral Support.Does your school still focus on punishing bad behavior instead of rewarding good behavior? They're behind the times. Research indicates that Positive Behavioral Support is more successful for students with behavioral challenges and for all students. If the school won't take your word for it, pass on these endorsements from the National Association of School Psychologists and the U.S. Office of Special Education Programs. Give lots of praise when administrators get the picture.
6. That Positive Behavioral Support? Try it at home, too.Teach your child to succeed by giving lots of energy and attention when behavior's good and withdrawing when it's bad, instead of the other way around. Let your child know that the best way to get you emotionally involved in what he or she is doing is to behave the way you want. Kids crave that connection, and if you're only giving it in a negative way, negative's all you'll be gettting.
7. Make school a place for fun.Stay aware of what's going on at your child's school, and see if there are some extracurricular events that he or she could be a part of. Dances, socials, clubs, carnivals, fund-raisers, football games -- these events that are part of most kids' school experience may take a little organization and assistance for your child to enjoy, but it's worth it if it provides some fun and positive experience in a place that's often hard and frustrating.
8. Enjoy school yourself.Involve yourself in the life of your child's school, and let your child know that school is a place you want to be. Be a class parent or a chaperone. Buy a school T-shirt and wear it. Volunteer to help out during the school day so you can shoot your child a secret smile and compare notes about fire drills and hallway decorations. Knowing that school is a positive place for you may help your child see the good there, too.
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