Parenting isn't easy.
In parenting, you impact the future.
So do what you can to stack the odds in your favor, lesson (imagined) fears of failure and minimize the difficulty: parent in community.
What this looks like when your children are toddlers looks much different when they hit the tween/teen years. But make no mistake, parenting in community (in tandem with what you do within the structure of family) will make your job at least feel easier and will have a positive effect on your children.
So, how do you "parent in community"?
- Be present. Once your children reach the middle school years, unless they're homeschooled, there's decreasing need for classroom involvement.
- Seek out ways to remain involved. Read every piece of correspondence sent home (you'll likely have to beg ask for this from your forgetful child). Refer to your school's website as a daily practice (you'll learn how often it's updated and it might require only weekly checks).
- Get to know and support teachers. An occasional note of encouragement; teacher conferences; doughnuts for the Teacher's Lounge. There are countless benefits to building a relationship with your child's teachers and principals for both parent and student.
- Attend games, practices and volunteer for booster or school-wide events.
- A great way to meet and build relationship with the parents of the kids your children are spending time with.
- Not only does this demonstrate your support to your child, it strengthens the entire group.
- Strength in numbers. When the parents of your children's friends become your friends, natural conversations evolve.
- You'll gain insight from their experience and perspective.
- You'll determine whose homes you're comfortable allowing your child to visit.
- And, of supreme value, you'll learn that your child is NOT the only one who isn't allowed to [fill in the blank with your child's favorite guilt inducer].
And a necessity of parenting in community,
especially as your children grow older–
- Check up on your children's plans. At some point, your kids will mislead you about their plans; it might be a sliver of information that would have turned your decision, or it might be an outright lie.
I hate to break it to you, but…even "good" kids lie.
- Give and take. Make sure you have your kids' friends AND THEIR PARENTS' cell numbers and share your own. Checking up can be as simple as a text.
- Tattletale, but ONLY if your motive is care and concern. If you discover something "bad" about your child's friend, gently, confidentially find a way to inform his or her parents. I've had both good experiences with this (where the parent thanked me and followed through) and bad ones (denial); others I know have lost friendships over this. If you share information because you CARE about the child involved, the news is received much better than if you're casting judgment or blame. Tread carefully.
Your turn: So, it looks like Hillary was spot on. Have you consciously parented in community? Unconsciously? Please share personal examples in comments that will help others have a clearer idea about what this can look like.
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