This semester is going to end in the blink of an eye, and the stakes are high. Many kids who struggle with executive function are at risk of failing classes, which sets in motion a string of consequences. So what can you do? Do this sometime today:
- Do not lecture, argue, yell, or use logic to convince your child to “get it together” when they are in a defensive or otherwise emotional state. It will fall upon deaf ears and cause more frustration and shame.
- Have a heart to heart “strategy session” with them. Be very calm, detached and emotionally regulated yourself before you have this talk. However…
- Give them fair warning ahead of time, so they can prepare mentally and emotionally. Parents rarely do this because they start a discussion when they are concerned and emotional, but it’s incredibly helpful to give this warning. Here’s an example, “Hey, to be honest, I’m concerned about your grades, so at 4:00 today I’m going to sit down with you for about 30 min to talk about school. Don’t worry, you’re not in “trouble”, but we are going to have an honest, solution focused talk, ok? And after we’re done, we won’t talk about school any more today. Promise.” And don’t bring it up after you finish! This talk is going cover a lot.
- When it’s time to sit down and chat, begin with 3 sincere compliments, “Look, before we dive in, I want you to know that I’m really proud of you. I appreciate how you watch out for your brother, and think that’s pretty cool. I like how hard you’ve worked to get better at science, and how you’ve gone to office hours for help. That’s a mature thing to do. I also appreciate that you’ve been helping out more around the house.” Remember, these must be sincere, genuine, authentic things you appreciate.
- Next, “Alright, let’s start with the grades. Let’s log in and see what’s going on.” NO SHAME, just go through the grades and print or list the items to be addressed. I usually help them list missing work, zeros, low grades that pull everything down, or discuss patterns (such as missing several of reading logs, etc.)
- Now say, “great, let’s email these teachers to see what can be done. Do you want the emails to come from me or you?”
- Email all relevant teachers and say, “Hey, trying to see what can be done to end the semester right. Please send me a quick note letting me know what needs to happen– come to office hours, makeup work, sitting somewhere else in the class, be working on a project proactively, etc.? Thanks for your time.” Make sure to cc with your child.
- “Great, now let’s do a backpack dump.” Go through every single thing. If it’s trash, get rid of it. If it has to be turned in, put it in a pile – I often recommend that, at this point in the year, parents just drop late work off to the office to make sure they get turned in. Just staple them in piles for the corresponding teachers and put a sticky note on the pile with the teacher’s name. Ask the office to throw it in the teacher’s mailbox and be done with it. Now make a pile for things that need to be completed. Finally, put all remaining papers into the appropriate folders.
- “Great, now let’s make a plan. What homework can you get done today?” Make a written plan with your child. DO NOT expect them to be realistic about this… they have not developed that skill yet, so accept it and move forward! Have your child do as much as she can, and tomorrow you can help her update the plan.
- Rinse and repeat this process as often as necessary until the end of the year.
Note, do not expect everything to be done perfectly or completely. Do not shoot for straight As. You may be a detail oriented person, but if you’re reading this, your child is not. So know when to pick your battles, when enough is enough, when to let it go. And compliment ALL EFFORT!
Good luck and hang in there. Your child really does need you, and even though it may not always feel like it, you are a great parent!
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