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After the 2020-2021 school year, how can you help children love to learn again?

We all know how hard last school year was, but it’s time for a new chapter and a fresh start. How can you help your children enjoy learning again and minimize any back-to-school dread that might already be creeping into their minds? Here are several tips: 

• Ask them what they like learning about. We’ve all been in survival mode the last year, but that’s no way to generate interest when it comes to learning. Talk with your children about what gets them excited and happy to learn. Expose them to different ideas and experiences. Ask their opinion about things. Find subtle ways every day to remind them that learning isn’t just about school and textbooks. 

• Bring back the fun. As you wind down summer break, mix fun things with learning. If you have a younger child, try games, scavenger hunts, fun math websites or daily writing activities that are a little silly. If your child is older, read books, watch books-turned-movies or documentaries together, get artsy and encourage your child to continue that summer project into fall (think planting a few herbs and spices in pots that can come indoors, creating a cookbook or taking up photography). Help your child find balance between the have-tos and the want-tos in life, just as you do. 

• Be a good role model. Like it or not, children often imitate their parents. So, if you’ve been stressed and buried in work, take time to learn something new. Read an hour a night on the front porch while the weather is still nice, and better yet, invite your child to join you. Take a class on a subject of interest and share some of what you learn with your child. Don’t just tell your child to try and learn new things — do so yourself! 

• Ease their minds. If last year brought some unexpected challenges or made some existing problems worse, make sure your child hears you say that no problem is too great to be solved. Reassure them that next year can be a great one with the right attitude and a game plan. Focus on the positive and the parts of school that your child enjoys most. 

• Support their emotional needs. Children have been hit hard by the pandemic. Lockdowns and fear about safety, virtual school, countless hours on the computer, isolation— the list of stressful experiences goes on. If you want your child to feel happy about school again (or at least take a step in the right direction), ensure they’re not brushing any emotional trauma under the rug. Get your children the help they need to work through any lingering effects. 

• Set fun learning goals. Encourage your child to make learning the goal, and try making this exercise positive and enjoyable. Have your children been working to improve in reading over summer, and if so, what about a fall reading challenge of books they’d planned to read this summer but didn’t get to? What other goals are reachable, yet challenging enough to engage and excite your child? 

• Remember that it’s always best to remind your children to focus on what they can control. The last year has been filled with change and uncertainty, and when it comes to school, your children probably were left feeling like everything was in flux. Get back to basics: tell them that you’re proud of their effort, persistence and dedication. When your children work hard, that effort is likely to show, so make that your focus instead of striving for As and a high GPA. It refocuses your children on what really matters. 

The Huntington Learning Center Gulfport is located at 8950 Lorraine Road, Unit E, Gulfport. Contact the center at (228) 206-2353. 

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