Dear Parents: Advice From a School Administrator

Here's what you need to know to consciously co-partner with your child's school.

Posted Sep 25, 2019

Dear Parents,

“It all makes sense.” Two teachers gather the morning after Back to School Night and figuratively connect the dots between parent and child. “She’s tough.”

Two parents reflect on the presentation by their child’s teacher, thinking, “Will the structure be too much?”

And so the relationship begins. 

It’s the end of September, and as a modern-day parent, you have likely attended your child’s Back to School Night. The tradition of gathering at the beginning of the year is a purposeful way for parents to establish a relationship with the educators who will be spending close to 1,000 hours with their child this year. We know it's in the best interest of sons and daughters that parents and educators get along, and ideally engage in conscious co-partnering.

What follows is open advice to you, the parents, from a school administrator, as we set forth across the next 10 months of schooling. 

1. Good schools do not expect perfection. Be emotionally available to your children: That is enough. Be firm and kind to your children: That is enough. Parent with high expectations and high responsiveness: That is enough. 

2. Parenting is part doing and part being. Be aware of how your doing affects your being. Are you absently present or presently absent? Be more, do less.  

3. Don't stuff your own past into a backpack for your children to carry to school each day. Check your own emotion management and remember the three tenets of emotional intelligence: Know thyself (self-awareness), choose thyself (manage emotions), and give thyself (be empathic). 

4. You don’t have to believe everything you think. Becoming entangled in your own mind chatter keeps you reactive, impulsive, and guided by unrealistic expectations. When your child shares a disappointment, friendship trouble, or a difficult interaction from school, ask more questions, be guided by values, and take time to reflect before reacting and sending that email. 

5. Schools are places of belonging. Find your person, reach out for support, and share your stories. This will help us know you better. Development is impacted by internal and external identities. We need to know yours. 

6. Say yes to the mess. There will be challenging days because no school is perfect. Be curious and open to negative emotions, like anger, sadness, or guilt. Assume the best of the school and the educators within it who are playing on the same team as you.  

7. Broaden your view with positive emotions. Gratitude, joy, love, kindness—these are heart-centered, other-oriented emotions that provide a heliotropic effect of opening up to possibility and opportunity. Provide more of these moments with your children, and your psychological reserves will help you during challenging times.   

8. What you pay attention to grows. Hunt the good stuff and be a maximizer of the good. Consider asking your child, “What went well today?”; “Tell me three good things”; or “What did you do today to make a difference?” when riding home.

9. Take care of yourself so that you can care for others. Do this by diversifying your sources of meaning. Your children do not complete you. You are already whole, resourceful, creative, and complete. Parents who report higher levels of life satisfaction are those that diversify their sources of meaning so that they all don’t come from the same place. If one source is depleted or suffering, then they are still able to access meaning from another aspect of their life.  

10. Be hopeful. Hope involves personal agency, pathways, and goal attainment. People who are high in hope create multiple pathways toward achieving their goals, even when there are obstacles along the way. They reevaluate, recalibrate, and remain hopeful about reaching the end goal.

The ability to access alternative pathways and find hope, despite the setbacks, is crucial in reaching the goal of getting into the car and getting the kids to school. Hopeful people believe that there is a way and that their personal choices will make a difference.   

As I mentioned in my own back to school night message to parents, good schools are committed to relentlessly discovering the very best in their students in the glorious and non-glorious moments. Fred Rogers once said the goal of all education is to teach children that they matter and that they belong. Mattering matters.

Though our neighborhoods may look different from those of our past, the tenets of unity, kindness, and respect keep us connected to our neighbors. We hope you will knock on our door, stop by often, or pick up the phone for advice or a listening ear. We will celebrate with you, and we will cry with you.

We will tell you things that are sometimes hard to hear, but important to know. We will remind you, when you need it the most, to look for the good stuff, and we will always remind you of what it means to be a good neighbor.