As summer winds down our thoughts turn to students preparing to go back to school. For many students this can be an exciting time filled with thoughts of seeing old friends and making new ones. For children with emotional and behavioral challenges this time can be fraught with anxiety. The new school year can present many challenges as students, staff, teachers and parents get to know one another and get settled into routines. This presents a great opportunity to establish relationships and set the tone for parent/school communication for the year. Here are some strategies that can be helpful in in establishing strong parent/ school partnerships.

New Year = Fresh Start– The beginning of the school year is an opportunity to start with a clean slate. If your child struggled the previous year, take time to talk to them about this being a fresh start. Also have this as a part of the initial conversation you have with your child’s teacher. What happened last year is over and in the past and should remain there.

Give a full picture of your child to the teacher- You are the expert on your child. You know them better than anyone. You know what they do and don’t respond to as well as how they learn best. Provide the teacher with a complete picture of who your child is in all aspects of their life. This information can be vital to helping the teacher connect to your child and getting them to relate to the learning.

Make regular communication the norm- Make a habit of communicating with your child’s teacher. Let this begin before anything happens. It could be a quick note in the child’s agenda, a quick call at the end of the day, or an email. The point is to establish free and easy communication so that the teacher is comfortable coming to you if the need arises.

Once this foundation is laid and things are going smoothly there are some things you can do to assist in keeping things on the right track.

Pay attention and document what’s working- Many times people pay close attention to that is going wrong in a situation and overlook the things that are working. Pay attention and document what works for your child. This information can prove useful if things begin to change and/or you begin to see challenges emerging.

Go over their head- Most parents have no problem going to an administrator or principal when things are going wrong with their child, however when things are going well many times no acknowledgement is given. When things are going well with your child’s teacher take a moment to let the principal know. Everyone likes to know they are doing a good job.

Give specific positive feedback to the teacher as well as your child– Often when things are going well we don’t really think about why they are going well or what behaviors are contributing to things going well. Giving specific feedback can help your child and the teacher to be more aware of the elements that contribute to success and will be more apt to repeat them. This can also be helpful when things aren’t going well to help guide thing back to a better place.

Even when we do all the “right” things there will be times when things don’t go well. How we handle these situations with our child and the teacher can make all the difference. There are some strategies that can help turn these situations around quickly.

Be as proactive as possible- You know your child best. When you see something, address it. Many times we will wait for it to “work itself out” and by time we realize that it’s not going to happen the situation is way bigger than it needed to be.

Keep discussion positive and strength based- When we are concerned about our children emotions can run high and we can, in our desire to strongly advocate, be negative in our language. Try to keep interactions positive and strength based while fully addressing he challenges. This is where your documentation of what works may come in handy.

Keep the focus in the here and now. Don’t bring up things that aren’t relevant to the subject at hand. Keep the past in the past. You and your child’s teacher are an educational team. Your approach should be “How can we support each other in supporting the child” because it’s all about the child.

Always follow up and offer positive feedback- Once you and the teacher have a plan make sure you monitor and provide feedback on successes and challenges. You cannot expect what you don’t inspect!!

All relationships that are important require effort. As the parent, your relationships with those charged with assisting you in the education of your child are of ultimate importance. Please keep these final two thoughts in mind as you form and foster these relationships.

Your child is watching- Children learn what they live. They learn how to interact with others by watching what you do. What you do is far more impactful than what you say in the life of your child.