Thursday, March 17, 2011

Investing in luck Or..Providing a Greater Sense of Freedom and Power

My mother says that luck entails being at the right place, at the right time, and using the right words.  Taking her advice at face value (which I do), I believe we can help stack our luck, invest in it, so to speak.  Here are some suggestions on how we can help our kids stack their luck as they navigate school and friends.  I'd love to hear some of your ideas.  Please read through and let me know what you do! 

Investing in Luck is two-fold.  One: prepare your child for what to expect.  Two: demonstrate, model and brainstorm how to navigate.  Teach your child to understand where to be and when, and how to navigate social, academic, and classroom situations.

Prepare yourself, prepare your child.  Preview, brainstorm and role play.  The hardest and most important part:  Keep your anxiety LOW.  This should be tension free - more like an intellectual exercise.  Note:  You cannot anticipate everything but feeling comfortable with options helps.

Scenario #1: New school.  Visit before it begins.  Explore together.  Walk through the halls, look in classrooms, the gym, playground, nurse's office, and school office.  Explain when and why s/he might need to go to the office. Play a game.  One type of game may be to take turns thinking of reasons to go there (either real life situations - you forgot your field trip permission slip, can you call home...or silly ones if your child seems tense - you just got accosted in the bathroom by a purple alien who was begging for a grimple).

Scenario #2: Having a parent conference with a teacher/school administrator.  
  •  General or mid year conference:  Look through your child’s materials (school work, tests, doctor/specialist report, etc.).  Look for trends.  Do you like them?  If not, this is something to talk about.  Read teacher comments.  Any questions about them?  What about group placement? Does your child seem happy and eager to talk about his or her day in school?  If not, yep…another thing to discuss.
  • Specific topic/IEP/Disciplinary Conference: Gather information (test results, school work, past reports, etc.).  Find out who you are meeting with.  Google them or ask friends about their experiences with them.  Review all materials relevant to the meeting (Please see my blog about IEP’s if appropriate).  You my want to bring an advocate with you if you are asking for particular services.  Any relevant medical and/or psychological reports…bring them too.

Scenario #3:  Your child is meeting with a teacher/administrator 
  • Make sure he or she understands the issues (without passing judgements or raising anxiety).  Simply analyze and review what the factors are that brought him or her to this place and brainstorm options.  
  • Once options have been brainstormed, role play.  Act out different scenarios.  Which one is your child most comfortable with?  Go with that one.  Have your child visualize this (it will help). Note:  don't over process, this will make your child anxious. Discuss, review, and move on (hugs help).
  • Know that you cannot anticipate everything, but feeling comfortable with options helps. 
  • Keep anxiety low.  Easier said than done, but super important.  Don’t let your fears/anxieties show and don’t over think. 
  • Take cues from your child.  Don’t over think…just prepare.

Scenario #4: Big Report or Assignment Due.    
 Prepare.  As soon as you know of a major project or assignment:
  • Break down the assignment into 'manageable' parts based on time available and on intellectual demands.
  • Make sure there is a space for your child to work (see previous blog for more on this).
  • Coordinate when to make library/supply trips.
  •  Brainstorm different ways to approach the project.  Discuss what it entails, selecting the 'best choice' option.
  • Break down the 'best choice' into 'executable' parts. [Make a check list together of what this involves that your child can refer to as s/he works.]
  • Get everything down first, then later...refine and edit.
  • Edit some more.  I know kids hate editing but I can't stress enough how important it is. The first round of editing should focus on word choices and whether their point is getting across clearly.  Do the sentences make sense?  The second round of editing should check spelling, grammar, word omissions or repetitions. The final round should simply be a read through with to make sure it all still makes sense.
[Note: you should not be doing this for all projects and assignments.  Do this for the first ones of the year or for the newer larger ones your child may feel overwhelmed about or for a project/paper your child has not previous experience with.]

Scenario #5:  Social interactions.  I cannot stress enough how important it is to prepare your child for social situations.   Regardless of where your child is, playground, classroom, school bus, play date, cafeteria, mall, etc., there are your child must keep s/he must learn how to stand, sit, speak, interact appropriately with others.  Here are some suggestions on how to stack their "luck" when interacting with others:
  • Validate feelings but point out realities (see previous blog for more).
  • Brainstorm what may or may not have happened to contribute to the situation- to better understand it.
  • Discuss word choices and tones of voice.
  • Discuss concept of space and of respecting the space of others.
  • Discuss boundaries (setting them and accepting them).
  • Brainstorm options.
  • Practice/role play best and worst case scenarios.

    These are just some ideas and scenarios.. what do you think?  What do you do?


    1. such a wonderful informative post

    2. Great tips! Will try them out... have a blessed weekend!

    3. Being a young father these were indeed of great interest to read. Most liked "Keep your anxiety LOW", which, I have to admit, is not that easy for me, manytimes. Please have a good start into the weekend.

      Hope to see you soon again.

      daily athens

    4. It isn't easy for most of us. It has taken me a long time to master. Thank you for the visit and kinds words.

    5. good post!

      And I'm hoping you'll do a write-up about your ComicCon presentation. Your "Departing the Text: Teaching Inference with Graphic Novels." sounds interesting.

    6. Oh thank you. I will. I just came back from the first day's session - it was GREAT! I will let you know when it's posted.

    7. Thanks for visiting my blog! As I was reading your tips on "luck," I thought to myself, "This sounds like a school psychologist." Lo and behold, I glanced at your info, and voila! In my pre-Mommy life, I worked as a school and child clinical psychologist. Your blog looks fantastic! Your point about anxiety is spot on-it's contagious, especially with emotionally astute kids.

    8. This is great information! Wise words. I don't have the need to pratice them just yet, but will keep it in mind when the time comes. Thanks for visiting my blog! :)

    9. Meryl:
      This might be a good article to publish on the website I'm writing for ( No pay, just some exposure, though the website is new and still growing. Would you be interested? If so, email me. I'm also starting to look for professional advisors and have an educator/child development person on my wish list.

    10. Nicely wrtten piece and very sensible. Not much of use to me directly though as I don't have kids but can probably use some of the advice to create luck for myself I guess.

    11. Bravo! Every PTA newsletter needs this.

    12. Hey, I just came upon your blog over at SheWrites. Great stuff. Wish I had read this before my stepdaughter's big independent study and science project, which are due coming up. I'm a new follower.

    13. Email me ( so we can talk more.

    14. great to read! we have to make our own luck. I think your mother was right.

    15. This is a great post. Interesting and informative. Where were you when my kids were small??

      This is Imnotaverse repaying your visit :)

    16. Meryl, thank you for stopping by my blog! We sound like mothers alike... there was nothing, not even in my years as a divorced mother, that would stop me from being an active participant in my daughter's education.

      Your list of strategies is impressive. I hope you publish, because all the Baby Einstein-laced drivel out there could use your common sense! Amy

    17. Thank you! I have a contract for my first book in the mail...just waiting...hoping...and getting my stuff together so it can be published within the year!

    18. What an extremely informative and helpful post.

    19. I don't have kids, but your advice makes a lot of sense.

    20. It looks like preparation is key to most situations. Very informative. There are several things here worth remembering, testing and applying.

    21. Wow! What a great post! And such an important blog. We are a home-schooling family with five little ones and I know how important an active role in their education and in their socail well being can be. Thank you for your tips. I'll have to drop in again soon.


    22. Hi Meryl - interesting ideas..I am not a parent or an educationalist but 'stacking your luck' is a rule that can apply to most things in was good to read something different in your post..thank you for visiting me - I loved 'PepperAnn'..(and have to admit I was definitely not under 16 when I watched!)Jae :)

    23. Hi Meryl,

      I love your posts! My son just had a Benjamin Franklin project due and we began it immediately, doing a few tasks each night. The three nights before the presentation, he practiced giving his presentation. He's only in second grade, but as an educator myself, I can't stress how important it is to teach children organizational skills in kindergarten. By the time they're in third grade, they know what to do, how, and not to procrastinate. And parents need to know that kids need to be taught these skills -- they don't know them organically. I cannot wait for you to be published. Your work is invaluable.

    24. Thank you so much for the comments, feedback and encouragement. Your points are so true. While some kids intuitively know how to organize, most do not. It must be taught, and taught early.

      I love your visits, thank you!

    25. Meryl - I love your tips. I try to put them into practice with my kidlets. Being an at-home mom, I have a wonderful advantage in that I can really spend a lot of quality time with my kids (who, happily, still want to spend time with me.)

      I think we continually teach each other new things every day. Someone once told me that she hoped my kids grow up with half as good a relationship with me as I have with my parents. I hope she's right - but, at least for now, I think we're on the right track.

      Thanks for the post!

    26. Sounds wonderful. And, you make a really good point. I have found that listening and learning has to be at least a two-way street. Thanks for the comment!

    27. When my children were kids, it was important to me that they were aware, had knowledge, knew they were "permitted" to be empowered, and more including a lot of roll playing. Though they were aware that we respect one another, they also knew that they were permitted to stand up for themselves when they found it necessary, even to an adult. No violence of course, that was never an issue. I never wanted them to feel lonely, helpless, or fearful as I was raised that adults were always right.

      Fortunately, now that my daughter is in college, she is strong, self-assured, and smarter than me!