Struggling with talking to kids about school assignments? Here's how to make it easy
With September in the rear view mirror, school is in full swing which means tests and assignments are looming.
One expert says it can be tough to know whether a child is doing well in school ahead of report cards, as kids can be secretive or can feel shame around sharing troubles with a parent or guardian.
But there are ways to help support kids with their learning that will make them feel secure in opening up about their assignments, without impacting their motivation or causing unnecessary anxiety, said Vanessa Vakharia, the founder and director of Toronto-based tutoring service The Math Guru.
She told CTV’s Your Morning on Wednesday there are warning signs to keep an eye on to help determine whether a child needs help with their schooling.
The first is bad test scores. However, it’s not always clear if a child has taken a test yet, she said.
“I promise you, if you’re watching this right now your kid has had a test,” Vakharia said.
Another indication to look for, she said, is if a child is exhibiting signs of frustration or having a meltdown when doing their homework.
“Are you seeing them hit the table in frustration? Are they crying? We see meltdowns over math homework all the time,” she said. “And it’s not that kids just don’t want to do homework, it might be a sign that something is going on -- they really don’t understand what’s going on in class.”
Parents or guardians can intervene by pausing their child and asking why they are getting upset, Vakharia explained. She added it is important not to get angry with them.
“The more you talk to them, they might say ‘I just don’t understand how to do this’,” she said.
If you’re hearing from your child they are struggling to complete their homework, then it’s time to talk to their teacher about possible solutions, Vakharia said.
“There’s often a big disconnect between how the kid feels and how the teacher feels,” she said. In her experience, Vakharia said she has found the child may actually be doing fine in class, but is struggling with a single concept.
It’s also important to ask kids more probing questions about how school is going, she said.
“So I would start saying things like, ‘What are you learning right now?’ and see if they can come up with an answer,” Vakharia said. Parents can also ask if their children if they’ve had an assessment or a test yet in school.
“Maybe your kid hasn’t actually had a test, they’ve had a project,” she explained.
If your child isn’t providing information to you, then an email to the teacher would help, she said.
Vakharia said kids who want to skip school complaining of stress, stomach aches, or headaches may actually have anxiety around the classroom, which needs to be addressed directly, she said.
“I would even recommend saying, ‘Did you know there’s a connection? If we’re stressed or scared, it can manifest in our physical body’,” Vakharia explained.
Because it is still early in the year, she said there is time to improve concerns around kids’ grades.
“Catch it early and you’ve got a lot of hope,” she said.