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School: How to talk to kids about assignments

With September in the rearview mirror, school is in full swing, which means tests and assignments are coming up.

One expert says it can be difficult to know before report cards whether a child is doing well in school, as children can be secretive or embarrassed when sharing troubles with a parent or guardian.

But there are ways to help kids learn that make them feel safe about opening up about their assignments without sapping their motivation or causing unnecessary anxiety, said Vanessa Vakharia, founder and director of Toronto-based tutoring service The Math Guru .

She told CTV’s Your Morning on Wednesday that there are warning signs to watch for when determining if a child needs help with their schooling.

The first is bad test results. However, it’s not always clear if a child has already taken a test, she said.

“I promise you, if you’re watching this right now, your child has passed a test,” Vakharia said.

Another clue to look for is when a child shows signs of frustration or has a breakdown when doing their homework.

“See how they bang on the table in frustration? Are you 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 could be a sign something’s going on — they really don’t understand what’s going on in class.”

Parents or guardians can intervene by stopping their child and asking why they are upset, Vakharia explained. She added that it’s important not to get mad at her.’

“The more you talk to them, they might say, ‘I just don’t understand how to do this,'” she said.

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If you hear from your child that they’re 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 the child’s feelings and the teacher’s feelings,” she said. After her experience, Vakharia said she found that the child actually does well in class, but struggles with a single concept.

It’s also important to ask the children more specific questions about school progress, she said.

“So I started saying things like, ‘What are you studying right now?’ and see if they can find an answer,” said Vakharia. Parents can also ask if their children have already had an assessment or test at school.

“Maybe your kid didn’t have a test, they had a project,” she explained.

If your child doesn’t provide you with information, emailing the teacher would help, she said.

Vakharia said that children who want to skip school and complain of stress, stomachaches or headaches may actually have classroom anxiety that needs to be addressed head-on, she said.

“In fact, I’d recommend saying, ‘Did you know there’s a connection? When we are stressed or anxious, it can manifest in our physical body,” Vakharia explained.

As it’s still early in the year, she said it’s time to allay concerns about the children’s grades.

“Catch it early and you have a lot of hope,” she said.

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