On Monday I’ll be sending my 5 children, who span in age from 5 to 18 years old, to 3 different schools — elementary, middle, and high school. One year I had kids in four different schools since preschool was thrown into that mix as well. I’ve had kids in private preschool, although primarily our kids have gone to public school. (I’m a fan of homeschooling too as long as I personally don’t have to do it.)
I’ve done hundreds of Back to School nights, classroom parties, Parent Teacher conferences, First Days, Last Days, PJ days, and Scramble-to-finish-this-project-that’s-due-tomorrow days.
Since I have children with special needs (medical, behavioral, and gifted), I’ve done IEP and 504 meetings, goal setting meetings, teacher meetings, school therapist meetings, medical review meetings and others I am forgetting.
Then there are the phone calls, like the ones from the principal when your kid is in the office in big trouble. Those are fun.
I offer my experiences as a mom who has done the “parent of a kid” thing for a long time, for a lot of kids.
When You Are Worried About Sending Your Kids to School
After years of experience, here is some of my best advice for when you are worried about sending your kids to school.
1. We all need to get over the homeschool is better/public school is better/private school is better deal. We parents tend to be judgmental of each other for our school choice decisions for our children, and it’s getting old. It’s similar to the working moms/stay-at-home-moms issues, which in my personal world seem to be improving. These days a lot of moms are blending the two, moving back and forth, and mishmashing those roles. I like that. I think we are judgmental about school decisions because none of us are totally 100% comfortable with our own choices. I know I fall into that camp. That makes sense because there is no 100% ideal school situation for your child. Stop looking for it.
2. Recognize your worry about sending your child to school. Then do something about it. It is valid to have concerns about sending our kids into the world, even if it is a protected school situation. Having children with significant emotional and medical issues, I have had a few times of near panic before school days. I’ve had some panic days about my typical kids, too. Here is the deep question I had to face very honestly: Who do I really think I am? Do I consider myself to be the ultimate protector of my child? If I do, I am seriously kidding myself and am setting myself to be a mini-god. No person can totally protect and control another human being, even a little one. I have to remember that God is in ultimate control.
Could something bad happen to your child while he or she is at school? Yes, it could. Something bad could happen to your child while he or she is at home with you also. If you have been telling yourself that your children are totally safe and protected when they are with you, you are lying to yourself. That expectation is generating more worry and fear (because deep in your heart you know it’s not true) plus creating a tremendous burden on your shoulders.
I have to remember God loves my children more than I do. He is their ultimate protector.
3. Parents of special needs kids, let’s huddle for a minute. (I’d like other parents to keep listening in because I think there is good information for you here as well.) I know your heart. I know your fears, relief, and guilt for feeling relief. If your child was born with special needs or identified for awhile, you have all the tools in your parenting toolbox you need, like how to advocate, how to research, and how to find other parents like you. Relax. You will get this just fine. You are moving into a new environment so some of the terms are different, but the plays are basically the same. If wearing the hat of special needs parent is relatively new, my biggest piece of advice is be a team player. Please do not go into the school with guns blazing saying what you must have for your child. Listen. Offer help and information. Show love and care.
Yet, also be firm about what your child needs. The teachers and administrators care about your child and are concerned about his or her well being. They get overwhelmed so they need YOU to step up and tell them what your child needs. Do it kindly. It’s okay to remind.
Ask questions like these: What have you seen work in these types of situations? Is there a way to fit this into your school/classroom? How can I communicate best with you? Would you like me to share what I have found works? May I offer this report from the hospital/therapist?
4. For all parents: Create an ongoing, working relationship. One of the biggest parts of education, and in my opinion honestly way more important than the academics, is learning to get along, work within a system, and cooperate with all different types of people. Teach your kids cooperation and teamwork by example. Show respect. Appreciate. I know a few bad (or more likely, worn out) apples are in the bin, but by and large teachers are the most awesome bunch of people you will find. They are going to love on your kid all year long like nobody’s business.
One of my goals when I talk with my kids’ teachers (and in all areas of life, actually) is to get to know something about their lives. Anything, really. Their kids. Their hobby. Their favorite food or a book they are reading. The next time we email or talk, I try to start the conversation with that. Everyone is a person first, not just what they can do for me. Look at the person in front of you and see her as a person with her own life, joys and needs. I know this sounds so simple and basic, but it’s so gosh dang easy to forget! See the teachers and staff as people who want to partner with you to give your child a great year. You’ll have an awesome relationship with your school team. It won’t be perfect, but it will go far. I see how well loved and cared for my kids are at school — what a blessing!
Remember that call from the school principal I mentioned? My kid was in big trouble and deserved to be in big trouble. The principal explained to me what happened. Then she told me how she sees the good heart in my child, has seen my husband and me parent well, and sees my child try to do what is right.
That, my friends, is a relationship worth working toward.
What has helped you have a good relationship with your child’s school team? Teachers: What advice do you have for parents?