Child psychologist and author Dr. Michael Thompson was in the Chicago area on Tuesday, October 21st, speaking to parents on issues facing pressured children. It was great seeing several North Star parents at the event and for those of you who weren’t able to attend; we wanted to send along a few key points from the seminar.
1. School isn’t easy. Seven periods a day, five days a week, school isn’t easy. On top of that, you add social pressures, sports, extra-curricular activities, tutors, its easy to not recognize the pressures that your son goes through on a daily basis. Think back to when you were in middle school or high school. It may have been a few decades but try to remember what your school experience was like when you were the age that your son is now. The challenges and pressures that you and your peers felt then are likely what your son is going through now.
Many parents say that they wish that they could go back to their school days. Usually that means college, not high school and certainly not middle school!
2. Every journey is different. For 1/3 of kids, school is a great fit. They are not only voracious learners, but they fit in well to the structure and regimentation that is the school environment. For the next 1/3, school may work well for them, but there are bumps along the road and there may be a subject matter or social element or two that is a real challenge for them. For the last 1/3, school is really hard for them and is a constant challenge. If a kid is good at English, they get a pat on the back, but if they get a C- on a math test, they get tutoring and additional homework in the very area that is their daily struggle.
3. Kids live for now. As a parent, you’re programmed to think about the long term. For some, this may mean getting your three year old into the right pre-school, positioning them for success in elementary school which will get them on the right track to pre-AP courses, honors level curriculum, undergrad at Stanford and ultimately partner at the law firm. To a parent, getting an A on the chemistry test is another step in the journey. Your son doesn’t think that way. Kids are predisposed to take each day as it comes, to live for the moment and they fear about missing out on the important social event.
One last tangible take-away from the session; when you ask your son how his day was, opt for a more specific question than “so how was school?”. You’re showing real interest and want some information while your son may see this as an annoyance and a concern only about his letter grades. Instead, ask him to tell you about something good and something bad that happened at school or maybe ask him how he likes math this year with Mr. Coleman instead of with Mrs. Macdonald from last year. You’ll learn more about his day and he’ll have a specific question to answer.