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Oct 01, 2021

Each school year, students begin a new chapter in their educational journey. And historically, this time has been a mixed bag of emotions - some excitement, some sadness (students in particular), and maybe even some mild nerves. But these last two back-to-school seasons have been different. 

Starting as early as June, our team began noticing that many parents were expressing heightened worries around the return to school. As summer ran its course, these sentiments became only more prevalent - so much so that we felt compelled to learn more. Between COVID-19 disruptions, changes in accommodations, cumulative learning loss due to remote learning, and every other bit of chaos this pandemic has brought to schools, we wanted to get to the root of what was troubling parents most. Thanks to the responses of 78 parents from our survey, we’re sharing our insights and providing relevant resources to help cope with these challenges during the new school year.

Let’s find out what's on parents' minds... 

Insight 1: 80% Are Worried About the New School Year (and Mental Health is the #1 Reason Why)

Out of the pool of parents who participated in the survey, 80% expressed some level of worry about the new school year, with nearly half reporting high levels of concern. This finding confirms that back-to-school worry is widespread among parents, but where things get really fascinating are within the reasons why. 2-Sep-30-2021-06-46-19-26-PM

When asked to rank a list of six stressors based on how worried they were about each, “My student’s mental health” gained the highest cumulative ranking score. Parents are worried about this issue more than grades, COVID-19 disruptions, and the return to a busy school schedule, all of which were other common concerns.

Insight 2: Two-Thirds Believe Their Student Learned Less this Past School Year

When participants were asked if they felt that their student learned less this past year compared to a typical school year, 67% answered yes and another 16% said that they weren’t sure. Given the restrictions and lockdowns of the 2020-2021 school year, it’s not surprising that so many feel like their kid fell behind. 

Back to school blog graphicsThose who expressed that their student had learned less were then asked which areas had suffered the most significant learning loss. Unsurprisingly, academics proved to be the overwhelming choice (83%), followed by social skills and self-management abilities. The implications of this are that parents are unsure where their students might stand for their new grade, which leads us to insight #3….

Insight 3: 28% Feel Their Student is Unprepared for the Academic Demands of Their New Grade

Building off the theme of learning loss, participants were asked how prepared they felt their student was for the academic demands of their new grade, choosing a number on a 1-5 scale (1 being not at all prepared, 5 being very prepared.) 

The results showed a generally positive trend where many parents felt that their students were prepared for the new school year - despite the high percentage of reported learning loss. 40% answered with a 3, indicating that their student was generally prepared, and 32% chose a 4 or 5 - indicating strong confidence that their student was prepared. Combined, 72% in total reported that their student was prepared at some level. 

Aside from potential learning loss, what else might have been contributing to parents' concerns about the new school year?

Insight 4: Time Management & Organization Are Students Most Prevalent Challenges

Based on the survey, it seems that many of the worries around preparedness stem from Executive Function (EF) challenges. When survey participants were asked which areas they felt their child was struggling with the most, the answers revealed a host of problems relating to EF. Time management and organization overwhelmingly proved to be the most prevalent problem areas, with each being picked by participants at 72% and 68% respectively. 3-Sep-30-2021-06-46-19-23-PM

Between summer break, remote learning, extended vacations, and reduced course load, it’s no wonder why so many students might be struggling to manage their time well or keep their space and belongings organized. During the pandemic disruptions, many students were short-changed of the consistent routines, structure, and deadlines that students need to stay productive. So going into the year ahead, what kinds of support will be most important for managing these heightened challenges? 

Insight 5: Coaching is the #1 Support They’re Relying On 

The data is clear - when asked to choose what kinds of support will be most useful for their student in the school year, Executive Function coaching was the definitive winner. 72% of participants named coaching as a critical support. The next most useful options for parents were mental health supports, such as therapists, psychiatrists, etc., which correlates with the high percentage of parents worried about their students' mental health. 

The Takeaway

First, this data suggests why so many parents are worried about this new school year. They’re concerned about their students' mental health and academics, lost at how to get them back on track for the new school year, and struggling to manage a host of Executive Function challenges at home.

Second, finding the proper resources and supports is another critical step. Parents cannot be expected to deal with such complex problems on their own. It takes experts in student success, mental health, and Executive Function skills to address what’s been broken by a year and a half of so much uncertainty. At the bottom of this article, we’ve included a selection of resources that parents will find useful.

Finally, we’re here to help.

Learn how Executive Function Coaching can help your student achieve their goals and learn skills for a lifetime of success:

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Resources

Mental Health

  • HealthyChildren.Org: Sponsored by the American Academy of Pediatrics, this website provides a wide range of resources for parents of teens and young adults. 
  • Kelty Mental Health Resource Center: Resources for parents and caregivers can be found on this website including a library and family toolkit. 
  • National Institute of Mental Health: Working to transform the understanding and treatment of mental illnesses, NIMA’s website provides guides and brochures. 
  • Parent’s Guide to Getting Good Care: A great resource from Child Mind Institute. Parents are taken through the steps in finding the best professional for their child, and the most appropriate treatment.  
  • Parents' Medication Guides for ADHD, Bipolar, and Depression: Information about effective treatments for children and adolescents with various mental health disorders. Available from the American Psychological Association and the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.
  • Teen Health: This website helps parents care for their child’s ups and downs, from dealing with divorce to preparing for new siblings. Also provides information on how to understand your child’s behavior, whether it’s toddler tantrums or teenage depression. 
  • Teen Mental Health: Geared towards teenagers, this website provides learning tools on a variety of mental illnesses, videos, and resources for parents and caregivers. 

Time Management 

Organization

  • How to Help Your Child Get Organized: Another helpful blog from a Beyond BookSmart expert that outlines practical tips to get students' organizational skills where they need to be for the school year. 
  • Organizing Students for Learning: A helpful piece from EduTopia that outlines 10 simple strategies for helping students who struggle with organization and prioritization.

 

About the Author

Sean Potts

Sean Potts is the Marketing Specialist at Beyond BookSmart and a recent graduate of Ithaca College’s Integrated Marketing Communications program. As a former coaching client and intern at BBS, Sean has spent the better part of the last ten years witnessing firsthand the positive impact Beyond BookSmart's mission has on transforming students’ lives.

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