Communication crucial for success
By Brenda-Lee Duarte
The best teachers teach from the heart, not from the book. — Author Unknown
The days are getting shorter, the school bells have been ringing and the new school year is off to an exciting and exhausting start. One of my husband’s fondest memories of his grandmother is her annual back-to-school phone calls. The day before school started each year, she would call all her grandchildren and remind them that school would be starting the next day. According to his memory, each and every one of them hated that call, while she seemed to enjoy sharing the experience.
Consequently, I was always just the opposite and loved back to school time. I loved the idea of a new school year — meeting new people, learning new things and just the idea of a whole new, fresh start.
As a counselor working with children, I have spent the last four to five weeks helping children through the start of a new school year — some excited about the possibilities, but most dreading the return to school and exhausted by the change in their lives and schedules. This time of year, many parents’ main concern becomes wanting their child to be happy at school. There are many factors that determine a successful school year, some in our control and some not.
It is important to take the time to talk to your child. Opportunities to talk with your child can happen in the car, during bath time or as you sit and read with your child. Always keep the communication open; children need to know that someone is listening. This will encourage them to talk about the good and bad experiences at school. The more you know about what is happening at school, the sooner you can become aware of a serious situation. It is a good idea to get to know your child’s teacher. Attendance at parent-teacher meetings, information sessions, community dinners and volunteering are ideal opportunities.
If you feel that you need more time, request to meet the teacher for a specific purpose. Remember that the teacher is trying their best to ensure that your child is happy at school, but they are not perfect. It is very possible that a teacher can miss something or make a mistake. Before approaching, calling or emailing a teacher with an issue, take the time to sleep on the situation to gather all your thoughts. When you do express your opinion, try to start with the positive and then calmly express your points. Try to also listen to the teacher’s point of view and see how you can come to constructive solutions together. Your child’s teacher will appreciate that you are speaking to them in a calm manner and in return will be able to provide the necessary help. If there is a problem at school, it is always best to first communicate with the teacher. Remember your child’s teacher is the one who spends most of the day with your child.
Most importantly, be positive and supportive. No matter how upset or unhappy your child may be at school, always try to find solutions. It is important that your child sees that you have control and that you believe that things will get better. Remember at times things can sound worse than they are. Children are resilient; this is not their first day of school and will not be their last. Remember that you can only control what is in your environment. Be sure to relax, take a deep breath, and the rest will work out.
Brenda-Lee Duarte, executive director at LifeLine Counseling Center, 1033 W. Broadway Ave., Maryville, 981-7400, is a licensed professional counselor and therapist. She and Megan Rapien, a licensed clinical social worker and therapist, will contribute columns on mental health issues the first Sunday of each month in the Sunday Life section.