At the end of every summer, we face that time in the year when our children have to return to school. Along with a quiet house during the day, 15 minutes alone for coffee, and maybe even a moment to catch up on laundry, it’s a time to remind ourselves how to be the best advocates for our children. Here are some things to remember for each of your children:
- Identify the people at the school that you need to meet with. (Teachers, guidance counselor, principal, etc.) There may be special instructions or information they need to best serve your child.
- Be prepared for school meetings.
- Have a list of the topics you want to discuss.
- Be open-minded and listen to what the teacher is trying to tell you.
- State everything in a positive manner and ask how you can work together on the problem. You may need to ask them to clarify ’school lingo’ you may not understand.
- Make a plan on how you would like the school to react if a problem arises. (Do you want to be called every time there is a problem, do you want the child sent to the office, or are there special responses they can use to handle the problem without further intervention.) If the teacher does not send home notices of homework assignments, you may want to create a plan with the teacher on getting those assignment expectations. It can help you teach your child responsibility; the importance of completing their work. Check with the teacher often to make sure that assignments are being turned in. Bad grades can be as simple as not turning homework in.
- Set clear expectations for your child regarding homework (i.e. assignments must be done before watching TV or playing outside; child must study for 1/2 hour, four nights a week, etc.) They should be rewarded for meeting those expectations. Check the homework when completed. Learn along with your child. (Personally, if I am to help my son with math homework when he gets to 7th grade, I have NO choice but to learn it all over again as he moves through the elementary grades!)
- Help your child write down due dates for reports, assignments, etc.
- Present each child with a nice calendar or planner that they can use to write in upcoming due dates. Explain to the child that he/she is responsible for using the book to keep track of schoolwork. Use the book as an invaluable source for communicating with the teacher, as you could write messages back and forth as needed in this calendar.
- Attend all school meetings, functions, and organizations as possible. Be informed and involved. This gives you more credit when offering ideas or expressing concerns.
- Volunteer in the classroom and even stop by for a surprise lunch with your child every now and then. (May want to consult older kids on this one!)
- If your child gets into trouble at school, talk with school officials to find out exactly what the child did wrong and what action the school has already taken. Although it is okay to give your child consequences at home as well, make sure you are not over-punishing them, taking into consideration the punishment they receive at school. It may be as simple as reviewing the school rules with them, or making them apologize to someone at the school.
- Is your child in the right educational classes? Never feel that you have no say as to what type of classes your child belongs in. Ask for recommendations from as many professionals as necessary to ensure that your child is in the right program. Remember to evaluate your child’s progress in the program you choose.
- As a foster parent, make sure you have supplied the school with legal paperwork giving you custody of the child. Make sure the school has a record of the child’s counselor, therapist, and any other persons that are allowed to see the child at school. More importantly, make sure they know who is NOT allowed to see the child in school, based on court documents. (i.e. Biological parents, relatives, if so stated).
School can be a very overwhelming experience for both students and parents. Try to remember the pressures placed on children every day, such as trying to be accepted, making new friends, getting passing grades, living with the stigma of being in foster care, or simply finding their classrooms. Passing classes is not the only outcome desired–we want these children to learn socialization skills as well.
Please talk to your child every day about how their day went, who they talked to, if they met anyone new, and if they had any trouble in any of their classes. It is very hard for children to turn to an adult with personal problems relating to school. They expect to be lectured on how they are there to learn, and learn only! Make sure they know you are interested in every aspect of their life, not just what they’re passing and failing!