As a parent, how do you help your child through tough situations at school?
When our kids go to school every day, we trust that they are well supervised, safe and protected by the professionals in the classroom and administrative offices.
But there are times when issues arise at school that concern or alarm us as parents.
It’s at that point that we have to make some choices.
We can simply take no action and hope everything all works out.
Or, we can take some positive steps in being a positive advocate for our child.
By taking advantage of a few insider tips from an educator like me, you can become a pro at advocating for your child when it becomes necessary.
In a Scholastic article titled, Be Your Child’s Advocate, the author provides a few specific times you, as a dad, may find yourself needing to advocate for your child.
- What should you do if your child is placed with a teacher who’s not a good match?
- How do you proceed if you suspect your child has a learning disability?
- Where do you turn if your child is bullied at school or through social media?
These are just a few examples, and I’m sure you could add many more to this list.
Being a dad is most certainly one of the greatest responsibilities in life. That responsibility brings with it some of life’s biggest joys and deepest sorrows.
Navigating the path of being the best dad you can be can get pretty treacherous at times, especially when you find yourself confused or in conflict with your child’s school.
As a former teacher and school administrator over the past 30 years, I participated in hundreds of parent conferences. Many of those conferences were positive and productive, but I can also tell you that many of them were conflict-laden and tense.
Looking back on so many of those conferences that didn’t produce positive outcomes, I think I could have done more to help parents know how to be their child’s advocate and get more positive results in what is often a difficult bureaucracy.
As the parent of twin sons born six weeks prematurely and who had severe cerebral palsy, I know first-hand what it’s like to go toe to toe with schools and other bureaucracies. There were times when I felt like my sons were nothing more than case numbers and educational plans to the professionals on their “care plan teams.”
Now, after many years have gone by in my parenting journey, I know that my attitude toward the “system” was definitely emotionally fueled. I think it is understandable for any parent to be emotionally driven when it comes to our kids.
Don’t get me wrong.
There’s no villain in this story.
Everyone has a job to do; a role to play.
The school has a role and parents have a role.
Generally speaking, schools do have the best interest of their students in mind when decisions are being made.
However, if you, as a dad, ever believe that is not the case, then you need to take action.
Maybe you simply need more information and explanations in order to feel more comfortable with decisions and plans that the school has made.
If so, then it is your right to seek and obtain that information.
It’s your child, and you deserve to have clarity.
The fact is that many parents simply don’t have enough information about how schools or other bureaucratic agencies work from the inside and therefore, they don’t know the best ways to advocate for their child when the time comes to do so.
Here are some tips for dads that I’ve gathered along my journey as both a parent of special needs kids and as an educator.
The forever mantra is get involved and be informed.
Build good relations from the start.
In Be Your Child’s Advocate, the author says, “Don’t wait for an issue to emerge to introduce yourself to your child’s teacher. Raising a concern will be easier and less confrontational if open communication has already been established.”
That is great advice.
Know the facts of your child’s situation, including their strengths and weaknesses and the views of those who work first-hand with your child in school.
Believe it or not, it’s pretty easy as a parent to only see your child’s strengths and not be as aware of their weaknesses.
It’s important to know both.
Then, when an issue arises at school, you can be much more objective as you get the facts and sort through the issues.
You will do yourself and your child a great service by being as authentic and realistic in your assessments of the situation as you possibly can be.
Organize your records and keep copies of important notes you get or send to the school.
In today’s technology-driven world, it’s fairly easy to make and keep copies of important school correspondences. Scanning notes or creating them as an electronic document stored in folders on your computer can be a huge time saver if you ever need to refer back to any correspondences or other information.
Find out about the real story; do not rely on gossip or hearsay.
This can be a tough one. It’s been said that our children are like having our hearts walking around outside of our body. I’ve lived that feeling and if you have kids, I bet you have as well.
It’s extremely difficult to be objective when it comes to our kids. The rumors, gossip and hearsay that get shoved in our direction can cause us to react before we know all of the real story.
Take a deep breath and do your best to get to the facts and sort through the hype and drama. You may find that there’s really nothing to the story at all.
Be polite and courteous at all conference meetings.
I know this one may sound a little offensive but trust me, from my own personal experience on both sides of that conference table, it can be extremely easy to go in “loaded for bear” when we believe that our child is being treated unfairly or that an issue impacting them is being ignored.
Maintaining a calm, open demeanor can go a long way to getting to a positive resolution and outcome for the situation.
The really tough test for a parent is remaining polite and courteous, even if there’s a time when the school representatives are not.
As I said, I’ve been on both sides of that conference table and I just call it like I see it.
There are times when the professionals at the school bring their own emotions and personal frustrations to the conference table. It’s not appropriate or professional, but it does happen from time to time.
If you do happen to experience a lack of professionalism on the part of school staff, keep your cool and be the bigger person.
Your own willingness to remain cordial and positive will go a very long way in advocating for your child, not matter what the issue is at hand.
And remember…Advocating is a skill.
Being a dad is such a great honor and privilege and it’s so worth it to know how to successfully advocate for your kids when it becomes necessary.
Educating yourself on the facts, learning positive advocacy tips and staying involved are all important skills for you to have in being your son or daughter’s very best advocate.
Our kids are always watching our behaviors and learning more about how to “do life” from watching what we do much more than hearing what we say.
Just by being more aware and following some great advocacy tips, you are already their hero!