It’s A New School Year For Parents, Too
The month of September is an exciting time for kids. New clothes, new supplies, new teachers and new classmates mean they can start their school year with a clean slate. But what about us parents? Can we make a fresh start, too, or will the PTO president still hold a grudge for calling her a “wildebeest in a tennis skirt” at last year’s carnival? (Not that I did that.) (Okay, I totally did do that, but she deserved it.)
But is there anything we parents can do to make the year school successful for everyone? The answer is an enthusiastic “Yes!”
Eight ways to start off the school year on the right foot
1. Be Happy With the Teacher You’re Given
Unless you know for a fact that your kid’s new teacher is a convicted felon, don’t freak out and call the principal if s/he wasn’t your first choice. Sure, the playground scuttlebutt may be that s/he’s strict or incompetent, but try to reserve judgment until you determine that for yourself. Every kid/teacher relationship is unique, so while your neighbor’s kid felt a teacher was too tough, your kid might enjoy her challenging assignments.
2. Be Happy With Your Kid’s Classmates
If your kid is assigned to a classroom with someone who has a history of bullying him, by all means take action to get one of them reassigned and/or have a serious talk with the teacher. However, if you’re just upset because your kid’s friends aren’t in his room or there are a couple of troublemakers sitting next to him, it’s best to just get over it. Making new friends and successfully dealing with distracting people are skills all kids need to learn.
3. Volunteer, But Carefully
I’m a huge proponent of helping out at school, however I’ve learned that you’ll be miserable if you sign up for the wrong volunteer opportunity. (See: Wendi and the Bake Sale Disaster of 2010.) If you enjoy sitting in meetings and organizing, the PTA is a good bet. But if you work and/or can’t be at the school too often, volunteer to do something from home, like the class slide show or cutting out Valentine’s Day hearts for the teacher. Pick something you don’t mind doing otherwise it’ll feel like a huge chore. (See: Wendi and the Fundraiser Database of 2009.)
4. Don’t Over-Volunteer
The parents at my school seem to have some unspoken competition going on with each other about who makes the greatest contribution. They even give awards for the most volunteer hours per month. (Which I’ve never once won, thank you very much.) But while it’s easy to feel guilty when you see how much others are doing at the school, don’t. Help out when you can or when you want, but if you’d rather spend your free time doing other things, that’s your prerogative. Your child’s not going to suffer because you decided to go to yoga instead of stuffing envelopes for the school fundraiser.
5. Maintain a Good Attitude
Kids are little sponges and immediately pick up on any negative thoughts you may have about their school work. That’s why it’s important to try to stay positive and encouraging about their homework, even though it can be a pain in the butt. I once rolled my eyes and groaned when my son brought home an assignment to make Abraham Lincoln out of Popsicle sticks and it definitely cast a gloom over the whole thing. If you stay enthusiastic about their work, hopefully they’ll follow your lead and be positive, too.
6. Be Respectful of Everyone At School
By this I mean you should always deal with all school employees—from bus driver to janitor to guidance counselor—in a cordial manner. Even though they may work at a grade school and dress in Christmas sweaters, they’re still professionals and should be treated as such. I’ve seen moms yell at cafeteria staff and crossing guards and it makes me cringe. Especially when kids are around to witness it. Just be nice to everyone.
7. Don’t Be A Clinger
As much as I’d love to follow my sons into school and hover over them all day, I don’t. Nor do I constantly email the teacher about their progress or pop in during her free time to badger her about their math grades like one of my neighbors does. I have to trust that they’re in good hands. Of course if there’s an issue or concern about my child, I’m 100% diligent about communicating, but otherwise, I keep my distance. Let the teacher do her/his job.
Which brings me to my last point:
After three long months of being home, I’m pretty excited that my kids are now at school seven hours a day. Sure, I miss them, but they’re having fun, keeping busy and learning. And we parents need to do that, too. Especially the “have fun” part.
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