Getting through the first few days of school poses enough of a challenge for well-meaning parents, but what about the rest of the school year? Maybe kids are adjusted, but that doesn’t mean it’s smooth sailing.
Like the weather, the nine month stretch of school is unpredictable and often tumultuous. From bullying to homework to the morning battle out of bed, parents are left navigating the journey alongside their kids—and for some parents, there are more thunderstorms than rainbows.
With so many dynamics at play, where is a parent to begin? The U.S. Department of Education makes plenty of helpful recommendations. For starters, parents should start by visiting the school’s website and understanding the student handbook. The more information parents are armed with, the better they will understand their children’s experiences.
Throughout the year, parents can become involved in PTA or PTO meetings. For parents who are unable to attend, minutes may be available upon request. Keep talking to your kids and try not to react to school situations with extreme criticism or hostility. Hear all of the sides before drawing conclusions.
Becoming connected with teachers and regularly communicating with them can reduce problems. If you have a kiddo with an issue or concern that needs managed, inform the teacher as soon as possible. You know your child best, share what works for you. Is there something that calms your child when hyperactive? Does your homesick kiddo cheer up when she can check out a family picture? Keep the teacher posted—it’ll make everyone’s role easier.
Additionally, find out the best ways to connect with your child’s teacher, whether by phone, in-person or email. Of course, it’s important to remember teachers are busy. They are responsible for a classroom of students and their learning—try to be patient and understanding. Be sure the teacher has a fair chance to help work through the problem before going to the principal or superintendent.
Likewise, don’t hesitate to contact your child’s teacher should you notice a change in behavior or academic performance. While children should be given opportunities to work out social issues on their own, parents must interfere if teasing or social issues do not improve. If your child begins to fall behind, don’t wait to seek help. The obvious solution is to schedule a meeting with the teacher to discuss it.
For parent-teacher conferences, prepare questions ahead of time and be sure to take notes. Report any major changes in your child’s life that could have consequences at school. Ask for advice or recommendations for improving in a specific subject. Figure out what you can do to reinforce what is being learned. Talk about the way your child is being evaluated and include discussion about your child’s strengths, skills and areas of struggle. Be sure to follow up on progress, too. After discussing a problem, check in with the teacher to see if there is improvement.
The U.S. Department of Education also suggests not discussing a heated disagreement with a teacher in front of your child. Make sure the meeting is private and don’t allow anger and emotion to override the teacher’s point. Remember, you want your child to be respectful and cooperative—model it.
Of course, it can be difficult to control heavy emotions when you feel your child is being treated unfairly or unjustly. Be assertive and act as an advocate for your child, but try to keep your cool at the same time. Teachers will be much more likely to work with you that way.
Further, attend award ceremonies, games, competitions and concerts. These are other obvious methods to observe your child’s interactions with other kids and to keep in the know. Be aware of volunteer opportunities at school as well.
As far as supporting your child, there are plenty of things you can do. Praise good behavior, offer positive reinforcement and encouragement and be sure to ask plenty of questions. Promote social activities and athletic opportunities. Structure a specific time to complete and review homework each night.
For more information, visit http://www2.ed.gov/parents/academic/help/succeed/part9.html.
Published: August 17, 2012