Supporting Your Child’s School Experience All Year Long
4) Get to know the teacher especially, and find out his or her strengths. A teacher who seems cold and distant to you may be incredibly gifted and deeply inspiring when she presents math concepts, and may earn the love of her students slowly but surely with fairness and love of her subject matter. Focus on strengths and the opportunities they bring, when you are talking with your child and with the teacher. Remember that teachers are people, imperfect and vulnerable. Give them every opportunity to shine, by appreciating them, supporting them, and understanding that they are learning, too. Help your child to develop this perspective, as well.
5) Help your child connect to other children for ease during class time and at recess. For preschool children and up, learn names and point out the children they’ve seen before. Plan playdates for 5-year-olds and up. If possible, get an extra carseat in your child’s size so that you can take a friend along with you easily. Get to know the parents (see step 1), exchange phone numbers, and follow through. In traditionally structured classrooms, older children may go so far as to disrupt class because of their intense developmental need to get to know the other children – make it easy for them.
6) Walk or bike to and from school if at all possible. If not, park 10 minutes away and walk. This opportunity to connect with self, you, and Earth is a great way to slow the experience down and give everybody a little space to breathe. Preschool children especially are highly sensitive to the physical environment, and knowing where the school is in relation to home, the park, a friend’s house or other familiar place, is very comforting.
7) Orient your child. Children attach to people that orient them. Know the school, visit the playground, share your observations of people, interactions, and systems, with your child to help her understand her experience better. Let your child know, in as much detail as possible, why things at school are the way they are. Give detail. Encourage questions. Tell it again. For older children, review tips for playing with friends, basic playground etiquette, playing in turns, etc.
8) Make school prep a “we” thing, as much as possible. Your child will feel more responsible and connected to the school experience if he is an integral part of the preparation. Get buy-in by inviting your child to make a list, to shop, to choose, to prepare, and to carry his own things – to do whatever and as much as possible under his own steam, or together with you. With a young child, ask your child to walk, holding your hand (rather than carrying him), ask him to lead you to the door, show you his hook for his coat, etc. Talk less, observe more, and step back so your child can step up.