As students of all ages return to school, many of them look forward to the changes and new opportunities with excitement and anticipation. But some look ahead to the challenges with anxiety and dread. In both cases, there are certain things parents can do and suggestions they can make to help their child get back into the swing of school with fewer problems and more success. And the back-to-school transition needn't be so stressful for working or single parents with an already crunched schedule.
For parents who work and don't get home until several hours after your child gets home from school, it may be a good idea to help your child find a worthwhile way to spend those hours instead of hanging out with friends or watching television. Getting a child involved in a community service project could be just the ticket. Working to help others not only eases your mind about how that spare time is used, it also gives your child a sense of reward and accomplishment by helping others. Most communities have volunteer opportunities for children of all ages, even younger students. The United Way usually has information about service projects for children in specific areas, with suitable community work for teenagers and children. Contact your local United Way office to ask for more information, or call your child's school guidance office to see if they have suggestions or know of local programs that could use your child's help.
One of the most challenging hurdles for students to overcome when starting back into the school year may be doing their homework. Students perplexed by the increasing difficulty of math and other subjects as they progress from one year to the next, and for parents whose Algebra skills are lacking, an online tutoring service can help fill in the gaps. There are many local homework help services available in large cities, both in person and online. One online service is Harvard Online Tutoring, started by Mackie Dougherty and Chris Palmer, students at Harvard University. The service matches students online with Harvard students to help them with English, history, science, and math. The developers and users of the system have been pleasantly surprised at how smoothly the system operates. "The feedback that we've gotten has been really positive," Dougherty says. Harvard Online Tutoring works with the Boston Public Library, which can create a student account at any of its 27 branches. Dougherty has high praise for the library's partnership, since the research nature of many subjects make it an ideal portal for students to use the service. For students in more rural areas, as long as there is an Internet connection available, help may be just a click away. The Homeworkhelp website offers the best educational software and services for middle school, high school, and college students, to help them achieve their educational goals. Homework Help Service features lessons in math, science, social studies, and English, that are designed by educators, and provides a safe, informed learning site for children and students.
Many students also have to deal with social situations quite different from those they face at home. Schoolyard teasing and bullying is a problem that's been around since schools began, but although it's not a new problem, bullying in today's society can actually be life-threatening in some urban areas. Teasing and harassment tends to be at its most intense when students first return to the classroom, and bilingual or foreign students often have the toughest time. The federal Health Resources and Services administration has a wealth of information that will help parents and students find ways to deal with bullies and intimidating classmates. HRSA's Maternal and Child Health Bureau booklet 'What You Can Do to Prevent Violence' looks at bullying, and encourages parents to get involved and help their children. To get information by telephone about the national 'Stop Bullying Now!' campaign, call 1-888-ASK-HRSA (275-4772).
Sometimes, a major source of your child's problems at school may actually come from situations or influences outside the classroom. If you or your child are feeling overwhelmed, there are many local and federal agencies that offer assistance for dealing with serious issues, such as alcoholism, depression, sexuality, major illness, divorce, or the death of a loved one. Local agencies can link adults with area programs that offer parenting help, support groups, and services for children with special conditions such as attention deficit disorder or anger management issues. The National PTA, accessible at www.pta.org, provides a wealth of resources for parents on subjects ranging from student achievement to health and fitness for young people.
No matter what challenges your child faces upon returning to school, there are literally hundreds of people and agencies available to offer assistance, both in person and online. Help is just a phone call or a mouse click away.