Tis the season…for absences. The height of flu season, 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 fighting off illness, 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 middle school students, parents should act as a “silent partner.”
Not surprisingly, elementary-age children need a little adult monitoring and management when it comes to extended absences from school. However, middle school is all about self-advocacy and accountability. This means that parents definitely should play more of a hands-off role than they previously have. Of course, parent involvement should never disappear fully. So, how can parents encourage responsibility while still ensuring student success during an absence? Let’s take a look.
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. The difference in middle school is that your child no longer has one main teacher—there are likely six or seven teachers who will need to know about a prolonged absence. Make it easy on yourself by emailing the guidance counselor. Then, he or she will make sure to inform all of your child’s teachers about the future absence. Also, encourage your child to remind his or her teachers of the upcoming vacation or holiday.
Take work home
Ask the school if your child should take future school work home 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 middle schooler to complete the work in small bits during any downtime while absent. Also, be sure that your middle schooler has written or logged all assignments prior to the absence. This will ensure that your child is well aware of the work that will need to be completed.
If your child is currently reading a novel in class or for a research project, seek an audio version before the absence. Ask your middle schooler to check the school’s library or media center to obtain audio copies of the school texts. If not, many audiobooks can be found for free on youtube. A set of headphones and a tablet are all that are 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
A notable distinction in middle school is the sudden increase in homework and projects. This can mean A LOT of missed work during a prolonged absence. As a parent, you know what your child is capable of handling in terms of workload. Encourage your middle schooler to be realistic about completing the work. If work has piled up to an unrealistic amount, choose the most important assignments or readings—then have a conversation with your child’s teachers. If your child is comfortable handling the conversation, have your middle schooler explain any missing work to his teachers. Encourage children to be honest about the amount of downtime they had, and how they truly attempted the assignments.
Have your child keep a journal
If teachers are unable to provide make-up work with short notice, have your middle schooler 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.