When “Stuff” Happens at School – how do you know what’s real?
In the last few weeks, a variety of parents have asked,
My son says a classmate is being mean to him “all the time” what do I do about that?
My daughter says that she has no friends and is lonely at recess, how can I help?
My son says that going to study hall is a waste of time – how do I know if this is true?
Once our kids leave the “safety” of home and spend large bits of their days at school, we lose touch of what is really happening there. When our kids report a concern to us, we need to listen AND we need to consider the source. What might seem like “all the time” to a 5 year old might really be 2 times a week. What feels like no friends might mean that a good friend is away on holiday this week and the recess routine has been thrown off.
So what do we do when we don’t know what’s real? We ask. We ask our children to share further, “Help me to understand what is happening at recess…” AND if we are concerned, we ask the teacher. What we say to a teacher can really make a difference in what we get back. Here are some suggestions:
1. Teachers may respond quite defensively if approached with: “My son says that he is being bullied by Johnny non stop! What are YOU going to do about it?!” Aternatively, when we acknowledge that our current information is coming from a 5 year old child who is feeling upset and ask for the teacher’s view point, we may get more help.
2. Once you bring the concern to the teacher’s attention, as him/her to monitor the situation for a period of time (week, 10 days). Arrange to check back in with the teacher at that point to hear the findings. This will give the teacher an opportunity to really watch what is going on rather than having to admit that s/he might not have been watching the dynamics of every child at every recess because there was photocopying that needed to be done instead.
3. Do check back in to find out what the teacher discovered AND if there is a problem, ask the teacher to suggest some strategies for improving the situation. There may be things for you to work on at home; ultimately, if the issue is taking place at school, you need to know how the teacher and your child will be moving forward.
As our kids get older, we can involve them in the discussions with the teachers. They need to take their responsibility in the issues at hand. If your child is skipping study hall because it is “too crowded and distracting,” what are the consequences (at school and at home).
Rather than giving up because it is happening at school or child care, ask for help from the myriad of individuals who are there to help you and your child learn new strategies. There is always more than one truth – it is only by asking that we begin to see the differing points of view and to find the people who can help us learn from the situations.