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When things go wrong at school

Blog Post Teaser Image Every parent wants the best for their children, and that includes having great experiences at school.

Despite best teaching practice things do go wrong at school. Most kids experience learning difficulties from time to time. Conflict and peer rejection are a normal part of school-life. The developmental nature of childhood means that there will always be some turbulence, particularly around key transition ages, such as the start of adolescence.

During these times young people frequently experience a dip in their learning as well as significant relationship difficulties. Kids will often come home from school with grievances, and call on their parents for assistance.

Your approach as a parent when your child has difficulty at school makes huge difference to their resilience, and their future relationships with teachers and peers. Anecdotal evidence suggests that there’s been a significant increase in aggressive incidents at schools involving parents reacting to their children’s grievances. This not only presents a danger to teachers but harms the all-important teacher-parent relationship.

Here’s a six point checklist to help you stay focused and be effective if your child experiences difficulty at school.

1. Stay calm and rational
It’s natural as a parent to protect, or defend your children, particularly when you think that they’ve come in for some unfair or poor treatment. But acting when you are full of emotion is not always smart. Rather than getting on the phone straight away to organise a meeting at school, take your time to think through how you might assist your child.

2. Get the all facts
Once you’ve calmed down, then get the facts about the situation. Kids are faulty observers and often only see one side of a story when there’s a problem with a teacher or a fellow student. They sometimes can’t see that perhaps they may have contributed inadvertently to a dispute at school, or perhaps said something that may have upset a teacher. It’s the job of parents to help kids process what happens in an incident, so that all the facts emerge and understand their place in any problem. Ask good questions to help the full story emerge.

3. Assess whether to go to school or not
Kids, like adults, like to vent and will benefit from having told their side of a story to trusted source. Often problems can be dealt with at home, simply by talking through an issue, and giving kids some common sense tips to help them cope.

If your child has a recurring problem that he can’t solve himself, or you think adult intervention maybe needed to sort out a relationship issue with a teacher or peer, then consider meeting with your child’s teacher or year level coordinator.

4. Go through the right channels
Approach the school calmly, going through the school office, or directly to your child’s teacher if that is the usual protocol. If you have already established a relationship with the teacher concerned, then it’s often easier to approach them directly.

5. Look for solutions rather than blame
Parent-teacher meetings usually get nowhere when either party blames the other. State the problem as you see it and view your child’s teacher as an ally, not a foe. “I’m really worried about Jeremy. He’s been acting strangely lately and I need some help” is the type of approach that will elicit a helpful response. Talk about your concerns and keep the discussion focused firmly on what’s best for your child. Listen to your teacher’s viewpoint, valuing a different perspective.

6. Stay in touch
Be realistic with your expectations, remembering that some problems can’t be solved to your satisfaction, nor will they be resolved straight away. Be prepared to work alongside your child’s teacher over the long-term, which means you need to keep communicating with each other.

Parenting is easy when things are going well, but testing when your children struggle or experience difficulty. Stepping back and taking a long-term, reflective view is often the best approach when your child experiences difficulty at school.

You can read my special report on Handling Homework Horrors and Maggie Dent’s informative, empathetic piece Helping kids who struggle at school in Parentingideas Club. Not a member? Be informed. Join now while the first 14 days are FR*EE. Join here.

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