Dr. Rivera

Dr. Karla Rivera is a district-wide psychologist here in Irvington. She is here to provide support for children and families as we face these challenging times.

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My Child is Acting Out in School- What Can I Do About It?

Kids at every age and grade level across the country are having difficulty returning to school. There is an increase in such things as physical and verbal aggression (name calling or using inappropriate language). Children are more depressed and anxious than they were pre- pandemic. What’s going on? Many of us imagined our children would be happy to return to school after months of being virtual. While children may be excited to return, it still represents a major transition for them. Why?

  • Kids are out of practice with the structure and demands of school after months at home.
  • Children haven’t been around other kids and have lost some social skills
  • Young kids may have never had the chance to be in school- or were only in school for a brief time and are still learning what is expected.
  • Kids are not used to working on their own because parents have helped them extensively when they were virtual
  • Kids have experienced loss and trauma that is affecting their emotions and behavior 

Tips to support your child:

  • Don’t allow verbal or physical aggression at home. Let your child know these behaviors are not acceptable in your house OR at school. If your child is allowed to use negative, aggressive language or physical aggression (pushing, hitting, kicking) with siblings or others in your home- these behaviors will carry over into school.
  • Model your own positive behavior: How do you manage conflict at home? How do you talk to your child or partner when you’re upset? What do you do if you disagree with someone? It’s important to teach your child through your words and actions to use language that is respectful, even when disagreeing with someone else. Teach phrases like, “I understand how you feel, I feel differently about this- let’s just agree to disagree”. Model for your child at home how to compromise. Walk your children through managing conflict- how can they share the toy, or take turns with the video game? Allow them to practice problem solving with your support.
  •  Limit your child’s exposure to violence on television, video games and social media. Children of any age will often mimic what they see. Physical aggression and violence feel normal when someone is exposed to it often.
  • Keep routine and structure in place: Whether a child is three or 15, he, she or they will cope better in school if they aren’t hungry or tired. Help your child or teen develop a daily routine for homework, dinner and bedtime. Help them follow a morning routine that calmly prepares them for the day. Structure and stability at home helps children to feel more secure and comfortable in school.
  • Communicate with your child’s teachers regularly. Know what the teachers expect and support your child in doing it- without doing it for them. Many of us got used to helping our children a lot with school work- but it’s important that they learn independence and to complete work on their own. If your child is struggling with a subject, or if you know of something at home that may affect how your child is doing in school- please let your child’s teachers and support staff (guidance counselor or case manager)know!  When kids don’t understand what’s being taught in class, or they are struggling with something from home, frustration can lead to misbehavior. Keep the lines of communication open!
  • Check in with your child! Talk to your child everyday about what’s going in school. How does your child feel? Encourage them to express their feelings and validate what they say. Our child’s problems may feel very small to us, but they are very real to them. Let your child know that you are listening and can understand. Talk to your child about how to manage frustration, anger or sadness. Teach them to stop and count to ten, take deep breaths, and to ask to talk to a teacher or counselor if they need to. Ask them what helps them to feel calm at home- is it drawing, journaling, listening to music, or exercising? Help your child to find healthy ways to cope and  support them in doing it.

We continue to face challenging times and this affects our children. We can understand why adjusting to school is difficult, but together we can help our scholars have a successful year!