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Ask your child what is fun and interesting at school, and what isn't. What does she do to cope with the boredom? (Does she daydream? Start poking her neighbor?) Sometimes just being able to come home and complain is enough, and a child won't want you to intervene. But spending a lot of time in school feeling bored is painful and difficult for children, so don't treat this lightly if it's a continuing problem. Children are naturally excited about learning, and it's important to pay attention if yours is bored in school.
Consider letting the teacher know what's engaging your child and what isn't. Often, a teacher who must deal with a large group of children doesn't have time to think about each child's likes and dislikes, and this information can be useful to her. The teacher may be able to give your child extra or different work that's more exciting and fun. If the classroom has a computer, maybe the teacher will allow your child to play on it. Or perhaps she can do other tasks when she's finished her work, such as tutoring other children or helping out in the school office. It's important to find out what makes school interesting and fun for your child; just being given extra work, if it's not something she enjoys, can feel like a punishment.
Involve your child in the process of making school more interesting. Sit down with her and her teacher and do some brainstorming. Value everyone's ideas equally, and figure out as a team which ideas will actually work. Ask your child, "If you were the teacher, what would you do?" Children often come up with responses that we would never have thought of.
Your child may also feel the need for more play. Play is vital to children: It's the way they learn, it's the way they communicate, it's the way they work through problems. A lot of children have a hard time adjusting to the constriction and seriousness of school and will do better if their parents encourage the teacher to make learning playful and fun. Your child may also be finding it hard to adjust to recesses that last only ten minutes, or to the more structured play of physical education classes. Make sure to arrange playdates for your child with her friends. And structure some time yourself, whether ten minutes or half an hour on a Saturday morning, to put aside your worries and play uninterrupted with your child — it's what keeps her engaged and excited about life.
You can also say to your child, "I really want to know what it's like for you in school. Why don't you be the teacher and I'll be you, and you can show me what it's like to be bored." Then you can fidget and raise your hand or start to talk, and your child as the teacher can tell you to sit quietly. Keep it light and funny without in any way making fun of your child's difficulty. You might say, "Oh, please, I'm just dying to talk to my neighbor" or "Please, please can we do something interesting?" or "Can we have recess ten minutes early?" Your child could say, "No, you have to stay at your desk with your hands folded" or "No, you have to do math problems for ten more minutes." Show how hard you're trying to do the math problems or to sit still, and keep saying, "Oh, but I keep thinking about what it's like to swim in the summer, and I can't keep my mind on the math, it's so boring!" or "It's so easy and I finished it — please can I go outside and play?" Your child will laugh and may correct you: "No, you're not thinking about swimming; you're thinking about throwing spitballs at the teacher!" Act out what you think your child may be going through, and she'll get a sense that you really understand.
Even with our best efforts to make school fun and interesting, it's still not the way it would be if children were in charge. School is a difficult adjustment for lots of young people, and teachers have many more students than any adult can work with effectively (as any parent who's had more than one child at home knows). Role-reversal play, in which the child gets to see that her parent knows what it's like for her, can go a long, long way in helping a child feel understood.
I sometimes suggest to parents that they try to remember what school felt like to them. Were they ever bored? It's helpful for children to hear a parent say, "Gosh, I remember what that was like. In 3rd grade I had a teacher who made us sit for long, long periods of time, and it made me want to start screaming and pulling my hair out." You can also share how bored you sometimes feel at work.
Go to your child's school to observe different teachers and curriculums. Maybe another teacher would fit your child better. Get a team of adults — you, the teacher, and the principal — thinking about how to make things better for your child. Remember, too, that children learn in lots of different ways, and that school is only one place to learn. You can do fun and exciting projects outside of school and set up lots of ways for your child to learn. If she is allowed to express her feelings and gets a lot of warm, close attention and interesting challenges in different parts of her life, she will do well and be successful in the long run.