When Should Parents Get Involved With School?

0Being a parent is a constant tight rope balance between support and enabling.  The goal is to eventually launch children into the world as productive and independent as they possibly can be – with all of the help and scaffolding they might need along the way.  It can be challenging along the way to know when to step in, and when to back off.  Fortunately, we are here to help with navigating the school system, and knowing when to step in with your child’s education.

We can start by delineating home and school expectations.  As children get older, the expectations for homework increases.  There are very strong opinions about homework (and all things child-rearing)!  Both sides of the homework debit have merit.  Kids learn through play, through exploration, and through imagination.  By increasing the expectation that children learn only in one format, such as paper and pencil, for far beyond the time we can reasonably expect children to sit and demonstrate patience, creates frustration for children and parents.  Kids are already in long school days, with likely extra-curricular activities or therapy needs that decrease their down time already.  On the other hand, homework creates a habit of executive function, attention, and planning, and it helps to create carry over and investment in the material taught at school.  For many kids who just can’t finish their school work during the day, their homework might include finishing up worksheets or assignments.  A parent may attempt to “save” a kid by doing their work for them, or taking a “divide and conquer” approach to make sure that other tasks, like chores and dinner time, get done.  In the long run, this is likely not helping your child, and may create an undermining of the school or teacher’s authority.  Rather, creating healthy routines and habits around homework and school work will have a much greater return on time and effort expenditure.

Each child is different and unique, and a parent is truly the expert on their child.  Teachers do spend an enormous time with children during the academic year, but it is the parent who sees the year to year change, who knows that November is hard because that was when Grandma passed away, or knows that coming back from Daylight Savings Time always makes a child more hyper before bedtime, and therefore more sleepy the next day.  Communicating is an important step in advocating, and many times parents skip this step, going straight to an administrative level.  Communication with teachers and staff about the nuances and details in your child’s life helps to provide context, and what was once viewed with a “behavior” lens is now seen as a social or emotional need – and the teacher and staff response will likely be different with more information.

Many children have unique learning or developmental needs, that may warrant special education or Section 504 intervention.  Communication, routines, and healthy habits are critical for children with special needs as well, yet the specifics of advocating for a child within the special education system can be difficult to navigate.  Resources, like Wrights Law and podcasts specifically about navigating the special education process can be beneficial.

No matter a parent’s feelings about their own school history, it is important for a child to see that parents and schools work together.  This helps with consistency in expectations, as well as helping a child feel fully safe in both environments.  Communication, understanding of the processes, and advocacy are parts of what makes those teams work well together.