Summer vacation has ended or is quickly coming to an end for most children across the country. As we gear up for the start of the new school year, now is the perfect time to make sure that your child’s year is better this year than last. It’s also a great time to set the foundation for your involvement in your child’s education for the year.
Being involved in your child’s education is imperative for their success. After all, the teachers can only do so much in the classroom daily. It’s our job as parents to work with our children outside the classroom to ensure that they reach their highest potential. And if they are struggling in certain areas, to get them the help that they need. I’m surprised by the number of parents who can’t even remember their child’s teacher’s name, have only met the teacher once, and haven’t been to any of the school events.
While in “traditional” family structures–two-parent homes–it’s not uncommon for one parent (typically the mother) to take on more of the responsibility as it relates to the child’s educational activities and schedule. This is not ideal for parents in divided/blended family homes. As a parent of a divided/blended family home, both parents must be equally involved to make sure that your child is on track and doesn’t miss out on something important simply because one parent wasn’t aware of what was going on. As a father, you must be proactive to ensure that you have all of the information needed rather than relying on the child’s mother to provide it for you.
Here are seven tips to help you step your parenting game up this school year.
1. Meet the school staff and administrators.
If you haven’t already done so, now is the time to introduce yourself to the school office staff and administrators. Tell them your name and who your child is, learn their names and what their roles are. Once you’ve met them, pop in every so often and refer to them by name (everyone loves when people remember who they are). The school staff is the first line of command when it comes to your child. You should know them, and they should know you. If your child’s school staff doesn’t know who you are, to them, you don’t exist.
2. Make sure you are named as a primary contact in their file.
Often, parents in divided families complain because the parent who completed the enrollment papers did not list them as a primary contact person. Don’t rely on the other parent to include you. It’s your job as a co-parent to ensure that you are listed in your child’s student file as a primary person of contact. Confirm with the school staff and administrators (who, if you followed Tip #1, now knows you by name) that you are listed and make sure that the contact information is correct.
3. Provide the school with any custody orders or other important docs for the file.
If you have any custody orders, legal guardianship documentation, important medical notes/prescriptions, etc., make sure the school has a copy of it. This will help prevent any misunderstandings regarding who can do what as it relates to your child. Specifically, this becomes extremely helpful for school staff in the event that one parent claims that the other parent doesn’t have the right to make certain decisions, be present, or involved in your child’s education.
4. Request copies of school-related announcements & correspondence.
When you confirm that you are listed as a primary contact in your child’s file, you should also request that a copy of all school-related announcements and correspondence be sent to your email/mailing address and that you receive relevant announcement/reminder calls. Typically, schools send important information to parents via email, mail, or they call with pre-recorded announcements. Ensuring that you receive this information will keep you in the loop, so you don’t miss anything important. Nowadays, most schools also have websites and other online programs and portals that parents can sign up for to track student progress, access event calendars, and receive other important information. Make sure you inquire about your child’s schools programs that may be available and sign up for these as well.
5. Meet your child’s teacher.
This may seem like a given, but every month I meet parents who have such busy schedules that they have yet to interact with their child’s teacher. You should take the initiative to meet your child’s teachers before or at the beginning of the school year. Especially if your children are in elementary school. If your child is in middle or high school, it may be appropriate to wait a little longer (such as the first school event) to meet your child’s teachers, as they often will have several. However, don’t let the first time you meet or speak to your child’s teacher be when your child gets in trouble or is doing poorly in school. The earlier you establish contact with their teacher, the more the teacher will understand that you are an active parent in your child’s life. And the more contact they will initiate with you to discuss your child’s progress and needs and to seek or give support. Attend any parent-teacher conferences requested by the teacher. If you believe your child may need additional help or challenge in a certain area, request a conference yourself.
When you meet your child’s teacher, express your interest in becoming a parent volunteer. Now, I’m not saying that you have to be the daily or weekly parent-aide, but I am suggesting that you become more involved in your child’s education by volunteering at least occasionally. Assist with a food drive or other event, sign up for PTA or school parent council, volunteer to chaperone a field trip, etc. Not only does this show the school that your child has a great educational support system, but this also will make your child feel important and special, and that’s who all of this is about right?
7. Be in touch monthly.
You should connect with someone at your child’s school a minimum of monthly. Not only does this remind them of who you are, but this also makes it very clear to the teacher, staff, and your child that you are dedicated to ensuring that your child’s education is thriving. Occasionally, show up to have lunch with your child or to take their lunch to them, send a “just checking in” email to their teacher, make a phone call, or just pop in the office sometimes. If your child reasonably complains about things that are happening at school, inform their teacher or staff, express your child’s concerns and make sure there is a remedy or policy in place that your child can rely upon. Not many parents do this, but those who are remain well-connected and their child often is taken well care of, because if they know you care, they will be encouraged to care as well.
Photo: Flickr/ Ed Yourdon