Question: My daughter is in 5th grade. We moved from India last year.She has difficulty doing her homework, taking notes in class. She gets angry and is not willing to be helped. She got all 4 in her homework with my help last year. What can I do to help her? My husband is a verbal abuser and keeps calling her names.
From: Uthara Ram
Hi Uthara Ram,
You're right to be worried; 5th grade is when work gets ramped up in preparation for middle school. Here's what I would do:
1. Make an appointment to meet with the teacher. Let her know all the difficulties your daughter is having, including about her father. Just by making the teacher aware and by bringing her into the loop, the teacher will be more invested in your daughter and will be more interested and able to help her.You can also expect the teacher to give you some suggestions on how you can be helpful. Also: don't wait for the regularly scheduled parent teacher conference. Do this now, OK?
2. You don't mention whether your daughter has any friends, but I'd also talk to the teacher about how she's doing socially. Does she have a friend or two in class? A good teacher can help facilitate friendships. This is critical to a 5th grader's sense of herself, so it's very important.
3. Rather than constantly offering your daughter help or hovering and worrying when she's doing her school work, sit down and have a conversation in which you tell her that you want to be respectful of her and her work. You could say something like this, "I know your school work is your work and I have not gone to school in the United States so I don't know exactly what you are experiencing or how I can best help you. And I want to be respectful of you and your learning." If she doesn't have a desk and/or drawers for keeping her work, help her to set up a work place with her materials, where she can keep things without worrying where they will be. Many children like to do their homework at the kitchen table, and that's fine, but they still need a place to keep their tools, markers, paper, etc.
4. Suggest to her that you'd like to make a homework contract: "My part of the deal is this: I won't constantly ask you every night how I can help you.Your part of the deal is this: To let me know how I can be helpful when you think I can be helpful, and to show me your work every X night (or nights) so even if I'm not helping you, I can know what you are learning."
5. Check out New Moon for girls and daughters.com. The first is a great resource for girls and may be just what your daughter needs as she navigates in a new country, new culture and new school. The second is for moms of girls your daughters age and may be just what you need! Your daughter is reaching a new stage of development where she doesn't want to be treated (in her eyes) like a "little girl," so by showing her that you are being respectful, she will likely be more open to your help.
Needless to say, the part about your husband verbally abusing her is very troubling. Obviously if you can get your husband to back off, that would be a good thing. Equally obviously, it must be very difficult for you to be in the middle of this dynamic, whether you are an observer, a buffer or a victim yourself... or maybe all three roles? I won't presume to give advice about this except to hope that by helping your daughter, you can alleviate the situation in general.
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