Stay Involved!

by Dana Smith Bader
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When our children are little and cocooned in the their home environment, we know every detail of their lives – when and how they sleep, when and how they wake up, what and when they eat, how many times they poop, what they like to play, what they like to read and sing – absolutely every detail. Then they go to school. If you have cameras that are accessible to parents at your child’s school or preschool, and you have no shame in becoming a stalker, you’re fine. You can still know almost everything your child does during the day. However, if you have no cameras, and you have some modicum of a life away from your child, you are going to begin missing big chunks of your child’s day.

That is really not a problem if you have raised a little reporter like my middle child. From the time she entered preschool until just recently when she turned 12 and decided to start weaning me for the teenage years, she told me literally everything that happened to her throughout the day. She recalled with perfect clarity exactly what her teacher said, what the assistant said, what her friends wore, including a description of their latest hair bows, and exactly what she did, ate, sang, read, and enjoyed throughout the day. It was parental bliss.

My youngest child, however, was a different story or, rather, no story at all. When I would ask her about her day, she would look at me sort of blankly and say, “Fine.” After that initial response, not matter how I rephrased the question or tried to pry information out of her, I got nothing. Fortunately, the middle child and my youngest are only 14 months apart, so I eventually got the middle child to give reports on her little sister. Yet, I still did not get the same volume of detailed information simply because they are a year apart. To this day, even at the age of 11, my youngest still gives me mostly one-word replies or no reply at all, at least on the subject of school.

Nevertheless, I manage to stay involved in my children’s school lives with a few simple practices that make me a more engaged, supportive parent. Regardless of the amount of information I get from my children, I worm my way into their school lives to ensure I know what is happening at school and within their circle of friends. With a little ingenuity and well-meaning intent, if you follow the tips below, you too can be more involved with or without a font of information from your child.

Make Friends with the Teacher. You do not have to be all chummy and have coffee every week, but it is very useful and supportive to be friendly with the teacher(s) and communicate regularly. Rather than complain or criticize, be a supportive parent and offer help managing your child’s behavior and progress in school. You can still give constructive criticism, where necessary, but you can do so in a positive, supportive manner.

Be Involved and Stay Involved. When our children are young, it is easier for us to stay involved in their school lives because we can volunteer for school trips, class story time, making party treats, and attending the many school functions scheduled in the preschool and elementary years. However, as the children get older, we tend to slack off and become less involved, thus causing our children to get the wrong message and think that school is no longer as important. Therefore, it is essential that we stay involved as parents. To do so, you need to continue asking your children about their day even if they respond with silence. You also need to find creative ways to discuss who their friends are, what they did in school, and what they enjoy or dislike the most. It is also important to make time for daily homework and to be available for support. Moreover, you need to make sure you read all emails and information sent from the school to stay in the loop, and be sure to contact the school immediately if you have questions or concerns.

Stay Positive. Even when you are frustrated with your child’s teacher or school, you need to stay positive. Bad-mouthing the teacher or school in front of your child will only cause your child to be negative and to think that he or she can do the same. If you stay positive and try to handle your concerns or frustration through constructive criticism and positive dialogue, your child will learn to do the same.

Be Somewhat of a Stalker. Not every school has cameras, but if your school has cameras accessible to the parents, login and watch what is going on at your child’s school. No, you do not need to watch the camera all day long; that would be unproductive and, yes, weird. However, you should watch enough that you feel confident that the school and your child are meeting your expectations. Also, you should become a follower of any social media available. Today, almost every school has a website, portal, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc. By following the school’s social media, you can get a good idea of what is happening and stay connected.

Follow Through. If you have any issue with the school, or if the school has any issue with you or your child, make sure you address the problem, stay involved until the problem is solved, and follow through at home and at school to ensure that problem does not reoccur. If you stay involved, your child and the school will get the message that your child and his or her school life is important to you.

We’re all busy parents, but we should never be too busy to be engaged, involved parents in our children’s school life. It is essential that we stay connected to our children and show an interest in what they are learning, who their friends are, and which teachers inspire them. Our children need to know that we believe school is important, and the only way to do that is to stay involved, regardless of how much they try to discourage or prevent our involvement. Sure, our children might think we are overprotective, and, depending on how much time we spend on the school’s camera or social media, they might even harbour suspicions that we are secret stalkers, but they will never believe we do not care. So be involved and stay involved to show you care.

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