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Back to School for 2nd & 3rd Graders

by The Kid's Doctor Staff

Your little ones have made it through kindergarten and first grade, they may even seem like seasoned pros by now. But these children have their own set of anxieties and concerns that parents and caregivers can help with.

Children in the earlier grades are dealing with kids from different backgrounds – maybe for the first time- shyness, and wanting to be included in groups. Socialization is starting to play a more important role. Higher academic achievement is expected.

Second Graders

In second grade, children are more likely to start recognizing personality differences in their classmates. The younger the child, the fewer biases he or she tends to have. As they grow older, peers and parents or caregivers, begin to have more of an influence. As some of the first grade innocence fades, new exciting experiences begin to develop. They are learning how to be their own person. Parents can expect their child to mature and become more independent in 2nd grade.

Second-graders are also old enough to grasp the fact that their failure to meet expectations will have consequences. It’s up to parents and teachers to enforce appropriate consequences with consistency as second -graders are quick to notice (and exploit) loopholes in discipline policies.  They may also begin to question the why of everything. Their curiosity and imagination is blooming and requires patience and deeper answers from parents and teachers. Of course, more sophisticated thought processes also can lead to more frustration. Some second graders become more sensitive to criticism, especially in front of their classmates and friends. Criticism should be focused on uplifting a child’s confidence with learning how to change a behavior.

Dinnertime is a great time to discuss their day. These little ones may also begin to expand their thinking a little more “outside the box.”  Encourage creative thinking and make conversations fun and interesting. Kids sometimes are a little embarrassed discussing their school fears, so be more specific when asking questions. Instead of “how was school today?” you might want to try, “tell me what happened in school today- what was the most interesting thing you learned? ”

Third Graders

Ah, third grade. Socializing is what it’s all about. Your child may have more party invitations than you can count, want to have sleepovers, play sports, and if you have a little girl… she may even be interested in boys!

Third graders tend to develop “best friends.” While there is no one type of third grader, because kids develop at their own pace, socializing does seem to become more important to this age group.

Third graders are gaining more confidence. They are beginning to make their own decisions, and trying to figure out where they fit in the world of classmates and studies. Parents can become frustrated because of the importance that these little ones put on what their friends say, wear, and do.

According to, experts say that such self-centeredness is normal for this age. It’s not uncommon for kids to want to discuss the minutiae of their school day because their school community is hugely important in their lives. Other 3rd graders might want to hurry through dinner and rush to their rooms to talk on the phone with their friends. Parents should not be offended by their child’s waning interest in home life, nor should they be surprised if their child gets upset at the suggestion of missing a day of school because of illness.

Academics are also becoming more difficult. Schools start putting more emphasis on testing and pressure to make good grades are ratcheted up.  The desire to do well can cause more than a little anxiety, especially when studies came easily in the earlier grades. This is an important time for parents to be available for help and guidance during homework. Creating a special place where homework takes precedence is very reassuring for them. A quiet, and well-organized environment can reduce distractions.

If you find your child struggling with learning and being able to concentrate for longer periods of time, third grade may be a good time to have your child tested for learning disabilities. Always approach any testing of this kind with a positive attitude. You may discover that your child has a learning disability or may just need an adjustment in how learning is handled.

Pop culture may start to play more of a role in your third grader’s life. Pay close attention to what your child is gravitating towards. Many times children this age, repeat song lyrics they don’t really understand, and can easily get into slang that is way beyond their years.

All of these changes can make you feel like an outsider as your little third grader begins to grow into their own distinct personality. Friend’s homes are more interesting than yours, the phone becomes an extension of their hand, you suddenly know nothing about fashion and music, and their BBF is more fascinating than anyone in their own family.

Take heart, your little one is doing exactly what they are supposed to do. As a parent, your greatest achievement will be raising a self sufficient, loving adult. These are the steps it takes to get there. Practice patience, grace, forgiveness, tolerance, compassion and discipline. As your child grows, they will learn to reflect those same qualities. It’s a learning process for everyone.

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