Playing Catch Up
Worried Your Kid Is Falling Behind? You’re Not Alone: How to help your child catch up with school.
By Dr Hannah Snow Baud
As our children return to school, this topic is often at the forefront of parents’ minds. The message from schools and educational psychologists is that we are all in the same boat. We should take our time and listen to our children. Pace our expectations as we encourage them. Try to be mindful of the vocabulary we use. Instead of using phrases such as ‘lost work’ and ‘learning gaps,’ we should try to refocus our thoughts on ‘back to school’ and ‘progress.’
We should try not to get overly anxious about what our children have missed. Of course, this is easier said than done, but as parents we need to think about the long game. Schools are confident that the impact of time away from school during the pandemic has been overestimated, compared to a child’s whole school career. We have to trust our children’s school. The onus is not on the parent to catch up; it is the school’s responsibility. So, allow them time to settle into school first. The school routine can be comforting for our children and give them a sense of stability & normality. Then the school should help us identify areas where extra support is required.
Taking a holistic approach to education and considering their wellbeing will help them feel more motivated. Try to establish a constructive routine together. Tasking them with the creation of their own routine gives them increasing control and engagement in their learning.
As parents, it can be hard to offer sensible support to our children and listen to them, but this will encourage and build their confidence in learning. Equip them to develop a growth-mindset and how to cope when things don’t go well. Be positive. Ask them what a good day looks like. Focus on what they can do and what they’ve learnt. Talk to them with helpful feedback about their attitude & effort, rather than focusing on outcomes and achievements.
In terms of motivation, children need to understand the ‘why.’ Feeling a sense of purpose can be intrinsically motivating. Some future-gazing with them can help.
Motivation can be increased through the creation of a timetable together with room for enjoyable activities too. The average concentration profile peaks at around 45 minutes and wanes at an hour. Encourage your children to be active learners, involving more movement. Drinking more encourages more breaks.
If our children have to take time off school, then it can be helpful to encourage them to study in the morning to allow for an activity during the afternoon slump. For the best chance of our children getting back to their best at school, our job is to try to build their learning confidence. By coaching our children to be positive we can keep our children curious. Don’t rush them along as a response to missing some work. The majority of students will catch up over time. We’re all in this together.
Author : Dr Hannah Snow Baud is an experienced private tutor and coach for children aged up to 18. She specialises in English Language, English Literature, the humanities and building confidence in learning. She is also mum to 5 children aged 12-19.