Is The Honeymoon Already Over?!?  Is Your Child Coping at School?

Most children are now four to five weeks into the new school year. The initial weeks of school often are filled with excitement about new faces, classes, and experiences as well as nervousness while getting to know the “lay of the land”. This “honeymoon” phase of school often promotes children’s best behaviour in the classroom. Over time, children become more comfortable with their new teachers, peers, and classrooms, which can result in testing the limits of teachers’ rules and increased behaviour problems in the classroom. In other words, the honeymoon ends and the reality of a looming, long school year sets in.

Keeping these ideas in mind – you and your child should settle quickly back into the daily grind of school life. However, while it will take most children up to a couple of weeks to settle back into the routines of school, some children may take longer to get used to school again. Some indications that your child may be struggling to settle in include ongoing:

  • Irritability, or difficulties managing emotions
  • Relationship difficulties with friends, peers and teachers
  • Disruptive behaviour in classes
  • Loss of motivation in school and after-school activities
  • Reluctance to go to school
  • Anxiety before school or distress when saying goodbye to parents

If you notice these behaviours and they seem out-of-character for your child then consider speaking to not only your child about the changes you have observed but also their classroom teacher or guidance officer at school.

Be patient and attuned to your child’s needs and encourage them to discuss their concerns or worries about school with yourself. A consistent approach between you and your child’s school is the best way to bring about changes over time.

Strategies for talking with your child’s teacher when a problem arises:

Set up a specific time to talk

  • If a parent approaches a teacher or vice versa at an unexpected time, the other party may be caught off guard and, therefore, may be more likely to be on the defensive.
  • It may be helpful to set up a time outside of school hours. Teachers may be distracted by other duties during arrival and dismissal time or between classes. Parents also may not be able to focus if they are attending to younger siblings or thinking about dashing off to work. Setting aside a specific, quiet time when neither the parent nor teacher has other duties to attend to ensures that all parties can focus on the task at hand.
  • If age appropriate, include the child in the conversation in order for him or her to present his or her side of the story. The child also will be more able to focus when speaking during a quiet time without other distractions.

Acknowledge each person’s areas of expertise

  • Parents are “experts” on their particular child, including the child’s personality and situations that likely are difficult for the child.  These are important factors to consider when trying to get to the root of why a problem may be occurring in the classroom.
  • Teachers typically have experience working with tens to hundreds of children of a certain age such that they often are “experts” in what is typical behaviour for a child of a certain age.  This knowledge is useful for helping parents appreciate what types of behaviour are “typical” for a child at certain ages and what types of behaviours are less common. Teachers also have a wealth of knowledge about learning strategies and classroom management techniques that help to guide interventions.
  • A child is an “expert” on him or herself.  If age-appropriate, it may be helpful to ask the child what he or she thinks is contributing to the problem.

Ask for specific examples

  • Ask the teacher to provide specific examples of times when the problem behaviour has occurred.  It can be difficult to talk with your child about problem behaviour in the classroom if you are uncertain of precisely what the behaviour is and when it is most likely to occur.  It can also be important to discuss if this has been an issue raised in a previous school year and if so, how was it managed etc.
  • These specifics also may help to highlight potential causes and solutions to a problem. For example, a child who often is disrespectful to a teacher first thing in the morning may not be eating breakfast before school, which “sets the stage” for the child to be irritable.

Make a plan on goals moving forward

  • This type of meeting should focus not only on identifying the problem but also on coming up with a goal for what behaviour the parent and teacher would like to happen instead. This goal should be specific.
  • Parents and the child should receive regular feedback regarding the child’s progress towards the goal.  For example, the teacher might send a note or email home at the end of the week indicating the child’s progress.  Parents and the child should talk about progress, and it is important for parents to praise the child’s effort to improve.

Set up a specific time to check-in againhow we can help children and adolescents - depressed adolescent

  • The parent, child, and teacher should set up a specific time to talk again in order to assess progress and refine the goal as needed.
  • This check-in time provides a great opportunity to recognize the child’s progress in improving his or her behaviour at school.

However, sometimes speaking to the teacher alone does not resolve all problem behaviour, particularly if there is a more serious underlying reason for the behaviour. This could be stressors in the home environment, anxiety, bullying or social difficulties. When the problem continues it can be tempting to keep your child at home if you notice that they are struggling to cope with the demands of school. However, it’s important to remember that continuing to take your child to school provides them with a predictable and ‘normal’ routine, which can help them to feel safe and secure. It is also important to remember that avoidance often perpetuates or maintains the problem. It will be more helpful to support your child to attend school rather than allowing them to avoid or stay home. School refusal is a real phenomenon and chronic school refusal whereby your child is consistently absent from school can lead to school disengagement and disconnection and it can be incredibly hard to overcome these challenges.

Sometimes if issues continue extra support is needed in the form of counselling or a psychologist to assist a child to adjust and manage new challenges and perform to the best of their ability. At YLO Psychology Clinic we know children and teenagers and the unique challenges they often face at school. If you feel that your child or adolescents difficulties at school can no longer be managed within the school environment please give one of our friendly psychologists a call on 07 3341 4619.

Our clinic address is: Shop 5, 2770 Logan Road, Underwood, 4119.

Our clinic is located in Underwood Village, on the corner of Logan Road & Underwood Road.

There is free parking and close public transport to ensure easy access by our clients.

Our clinic provides a child and adolescent friendly environment that supports differing modalities of intervention. The clinic provides for wheelchair access.