As the dust begins to settle on a new school year, there’s a lot you can do to create a smooth year for your child, and you. While every family has unique challenges, there are some strategies that seem to help everyone. Adapt the following tips so that they work for your family.
- Keep in close contact with your child’s teacher. You’ve got a special education team and meeting with them (all of them) early and often is important, but the most important person is your child’s classroom teacher. I worked really hard on getting my son to walk himself to class in the morning. I was not successful, despite support from his team. But then I realized this daily check-in with his teacher was critical to his success. If this isn’t an option for you, find other ways to connect: a daily email, notebook that you and his teacher write in each day, phone calls, or a weekly scheduled check-in.
- Know your child’s schedule. If your child is like mine, getting information from him is impossible. So get a daily and weekly schedule from your child’s teacher. This will help you prepare him/her for the day: gym shoes, library book, test day. And then of course you are well equipped to whip up those visual schedules we all love. It also helps you ask your child specific questions at the end of the day.
- Volunteer in the classroom. Even if it’s just twice a year, being in your child’s classroom opens up a whole new world of insights. Because, again, your child won’t always share how they are doing. While in the classroom I notice social issues that are cropping up and can guide his team in addressing them. I didn’t plan on this when I first volunteered in my son’s kindergarten room, but I fielded a lot of questions about him from the other kids. They liked him, but were unsure as to why he did the things he did. I was able to show them how much he is like them, facilitate some lasting connections and ease his way socially. Plus I am always reassured to see, for myself, how well he is doing.
- Plan play dates. Find out from your child’s teacher which students he/she is connecting with. Contact their parents and plan a play date. It doesn’t have to be elaborate, but that time to connect away from the chaos of school will allow classmates to see what a great kid you have. That play date will foster a deeper connection that will hopefully translate to buddies in the cafeteria and on the playground.
- Be the cool parent. Short of handing out candy every day, do all you can to attract your child’s classmates. I still get hugs from my son’s former and current classmates when I see them in the halls. This relationship translates into a positive view of my son. It won’t work forever, but for right now, I’m his social ambassador.
It takes a lot of energy and time at first. But simply being seen and being available at your child’s school gives the clear message to staff, kids and other parents that you are invested in your child – academically and socially. This goes really far. Attend school functions, even if your child only lasts five minutes. Simply showing up reminds everyone that your child is firmly planted at the core of the school, fully included and invested in success.