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Mel Gravely

Staying Involved Sets the Stage for Your Child’s Success

parent involvementIt’s no secret that parenting can sometimes be our toughest job. As parents, we often lose sleep over how to ensure our children’s safety, healthy development, and future success. Study after study suggests that children experience significant developmental benefits when parents are actively involved in their children’s education. Early education programs like Head Start routinely witness these benefits first-hand and now require parental involvement in order for a child to receive Head Start services. So, what exactly does “parental involvement” mean?

Back in the day, parental involvement at school meant volunteering as a classroom parent. These days, the social landscape has changed dramatically to include changes to family structure, competing work and family pressures, and the absence of traditional support networks, such as a spouse, extended family, neighbors, and places of worship. This new reality can lead hard-working parents to feel isolated and ineffective as they do their best to carry out their parental responsibilities. For some parents, adding yet another task when balancing so much already is akin to tipping over a full glass.

One way to involve parents in their children’s education while keeping our changing social culture in mind, is by providing different options for participation. Taking time off to volunteer in the classroom may be possible for a stay-at-home parent, but not for single parents who work daytime hours to make ends meet. It is important to keep in mind that while the need for in-person classroom volunteers will always exist, teachers also benefit from support that takes place outside the classroom. For example, organizing field trips, collaborating on school events, making classroom materials at home, or picking up additional classroom supplies on your next Walmart run are some ways to participate, while helping busy teachers (some of whom are parents themselves). Another way to stay involved is through reading at home with your child, which provides practice and boosts self-confidence. In doing so, parents are involved directly in their children’s learning journey, and these experiences at home will inevitably spill into the classroom dynamic. Parents who participate in some capacity tend to feel vested in what happens at school and more effective in their roles as parents.

Besides parents, teachers are the single biggest influence on children’s success. Staying involved in your children’s learning also means keeping open the lines of communication with their children’s teachers. By openly partnering with professional educators, parents send a clear sign to their children about accountability to more than just one person. While one-way teacher communications like newsletters and notices are valuable in keeping parents apprised of events in the classroom and at school, two-way communications spark the “back and forth” that is so crucial to children’s development. Sharing information, feelings, and feedback on children’s emotional and academic progress is key to their overall wellbeing.

When parents, teachers, and schools collaborate to build and maintain trusting relationships, everybody wins.

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