The winter weather, combined with the holiday season, tends to create a notable increase in student absences from school. Whether families are traveling over the holidays, vacationing, or even getting hit with bouts of the flu, this time of year means that, for one reason or another, students are missing more school. So what can be done to ease the stress of returning to school after a long absence? For elementary-age students, parents play a key role.
Not surprisingly, elementary-age students need a little adult monitoring and management when it comes to extended absences from school. Often times, it is the parent or guardian who decides when a child needs to be out of school to begin with—children do not schedule their own vacations, nor do they make the final call when they are ill. Therefore, the best advice for elementary school children is directed towards parents.
Of course, some occasions simply do not allow for planning—the stomach flu is not going to afford a family the opportunity to plan ahead for a multi-day absence. However, vacations, family visits, or religious observances are things that can and should be planned for. Emailing the school a week or two prior can make all the difference when it comes to prolonged absences.
Take work home
Ask the teacher(s) if your child should take work outside of school prior to the absence. This will allow for a head start on the missed assignments, which will also reduce stress or anxiety for your child. Encourage your child to complete the work in small bits during any downtime while absent.
If your child is currently reading a novel in class or for a research project, seek an audio version before the absence. In fact, many audio books can be found for free on youtube. A set of headphones and a tablet are all that’s needed to keep your child from lagging behind in his or her schoolwork. Audiobooks act as a way to occupy children while travelling, as well. Consider balancing out their school text by bringing a second audio book just for pleasure.
Prioritize the workload
Hopefully, elementary-age students are not seeing loads of work at this point in their education. However, statistics show that many children are completing 1-3 hours of work each night. This could mean staggering amounts of make-up work if absent for a week. As a parent, you know what your child can and should be doing in terms of homework. Be realistic about the completion and try not to have your child overdo it. If work has piled up to an unrealistic amount, choose the most important assignments or readings—then have a conversation with your child’s teacher. Make-up work should not be seen as a punishment for prolonged absence.
Have your child keep a journal
If teachers are unable to provide make-up work with short notice, have your child complete a daily journal of his or her trip. This not only provides your child with a little bit of academic work each day—it also acts as a keepsake from a family vacation or holiday. The journal does not have to be written—consider allowing your child to keep a video journal or a typed diary during the trip.