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Finding the Best School for Your Child

Everybody's got an opinion about where you should send Wadsworth to school. Dominic down at the deli is convinced the local elementary school is the best place for him. But your mother still believes it was the worst thing she ever did to you.

To find a new school for your child, remember one cardinal rule. It has to be the best fit for him, not Dominic, his grandmother, or his uncle Freddie. "For a school to have the best success with a child, it must be flexible enough to meet the child at his or her own developmental level," says educational diagnostician and school placement counselor Patricia Lemer of Developmental Delay Resources in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. "Find schools that are consistent with your child's learning style and acceptable to your educational philosophy," she says.

For Kids of All Ages
Whether or not you choose to involve Wadsworth directly in the school-selection process, at the very least talk to him about the biggest fear most kids have about going to a new school: making friends. Though worrisome to preschoolers and elementary-aged kids, it can cause panic in middle and high schoolers. Don't let it fester. Only after he feels confident that he has some strategies for making new friends can he consider other important aspects of his new school.

Prior to attending a new school, try some of the following ideas to help preschoolers through high schoolers initiate and sustain friendships.

Preschool To Grade Five
Even preschoolers have made a friend or two, so start by discussing together the birth and development of some of Wadsworth's current friendships. How did he meet Harry? Talk about the happy accident, shared interests, or love of dogs that brought them together. Then talk about what made the friendship grow. Do this for each important friendship, then help him determine how he might transfer those friend-making tools to his new schoolmates. Talk also about the symbols that might signal a new friend. Does that boy next to him have on a sweatshirt with Wadsworth's favorite baseball team on it? When it comes to an important social skill like making friends, reviewing, strategizing, and planning give your kids the best chance of success.

Middle and High School
In middle and high school, friendships are always paramount, often tenuous, and periodically hurtful. Focus first then on how Wadsworth dealt successfully with past social skirmishes. Reidentify the past problem, clarify the circumstances surrounding it, and then discuss which solution attempts worked best. Did some well-timed, well-aimed retorts cure a bully? Did the timely intervention of a friendly adult ease the situation? Then review Wadsworth's role in resolving the problem. Did his negotiating skills win him a new friend? Enumerating Wadsworth's past social skills and successes will give him the confidence he needs to make friends in the future.

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From Teacher Says by Evelyn Porreca Vuko. Copyright © 2004. Used by arrangement with Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

If you'd like to buy this book, visit amazon.com or click on the book cover.


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