4 Ways to Influence Your Child’s Elementary School Years

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teaching kids about inclusion and belongingNow that my son is 12 and in middle school, I’ve had time to think about lessons learned and things I may have done differently while he was in elementary school. Here are four ways you can make a difference in your child’s elementary school years.

1. Read About Early Childhood Development

I have one kid, which means I get one chance to get things right (or wrong). I’ve found useful resources that teach me about childhood development. These resources help me set proper expectations for my child.

I learned early on that some of the expectations I had for my son were unrealistic. Behavior I thought he should have at age eight actually was not possible until age 12 or older.

One of my most eye-opening realizations was that brain development continues well into our 20s and beyond. Functions like organization, certain social skills, and information retention simply aren’t yet developed in school-age children. Knowing the various stages of brain development can be very helpful in knowing how to interact with, and what to expect from, your school-age child.

The CDC offers guidance for different childhood stages. Use your child’s pediatrician or school counselor as a resource. Don’t forget about your local library! Collin County is fortunate to have exceptional public library resources. Access to apps like Libby via your library system puts thousands of digital and audio books at your fingertips for free.

2. Help Your Child Build Relationships

In elementary school, kids are moving out of the preschool stage of necessary self-centeredness to being more aware of other people and seeking attention and acceptance.

Making friends is hard at any age, but the ease with which many elementary-aged children meet new people is refreshing. However, they are too young to get together outside of school without adult involvement and supervision. It can be challenging for a young child to meet and maintain friendly relationships with everyone’s hectic schedules, not to mention the natural feelings of parent anxiety.

At this age, kids need to experience connection with peers. They begin to see that having friends means showing care and concern for others and extending invitations to spend time together outside of the classroom.

Looking back, I definitely could have done more of that when my son started elementary school. Connecting kids for playdates at parks or joining teams or scouts are great ways to help them learn relationship-building skills. City recreational systems also offer all sorts of activities for kids. Find one you want to check out and ask other parents if they want to sign up their kids for the same class.

>> RELATED READ :: Parks Moms Love in Allen, Frisco, & McKinney <<

Not sure how to connect with other parents? Join the PTA (parent-teacher Association) and get access to its directory. Attend school functions like family picnics and book fairs where you will run into other parents. You can even send a note with your child to give to a new friend for their parents. Include your contact information in the note and let them know you’d like to arrange a playdate. A mom did that for me, and I so appreciated her reaching out.

Initiating a get-together can be daunting, but parents and children have more to gain than lose when they are the first to say hello.

Children in an elementary school classroom sit next to each other.

3. Give Your Kid Space

I get it — the world is a scary place. Our job as parents is to help our children learn how to navigate this crazy world and find their place in it. Their elementary school years are among the few times in their lives when they have the space, freedom, and time to discover their likes and dislikes and explore the world around them with the gifts of curiosity and innocence.

They can’t do that with confidence and ease if we set too many boundaries and expectations, or if we fail to give them chances to make decisions and deal with minor consequences. Kids at this age will fight for their freedom. Be mindful of those moments and let them do their thing.

When you feel the urge to do things for your elementary school-aged child, and it’s something he or she is capable of doing, take a deep breath and let the child try. Trust the innate wisdom that guides each child. Let him struggle to tie his shoes, help her sound out words rather than read it for her, and if your child has an issue with another child at school, give him or her a chance to work through it rather than stepping in right away.

Perfection is never the goal, so let him or her figure out what works for the individual. Encourage skills that allow him or her to adjust when things don’t go as planned.

A great book to check out is The Self-Driven Child: The Science and Sense of Giving Your Kids More Control Over Their Lives. It’s not a perfect book, but it provides some starting points to help you build a philosophy for how you want to guide and support your child.

>> LISTEN :: Momfessions Podcast :: How to Be the Best Elementary School Mom Ever <<

4. Be Visible and Present

This may seem to counter to the previous tip, but your kid needs to know you are present. You still need to keep tabs on what’s going on at school. Soak up the fact that your child will enjoy seeing you at school because that will fade fast as they get older.

Many schools offer volunteer opportunities via the PTA to be a lunch monitor, room parent, or help with certain classes where teachers need extra hands. These are less time-intensive than being a committee chair, and they let you get a feel for the vibe of the classrooms, teachers, and administrators. It also helps you put faces with names when your kids tell you about their classmates. Even the carpool pick-up or drop-off is a chance to have some contact with the school.

As your child gets older, the opportunities to be involved decrease, so take advantage of them now. The more connected you and your child feel with your school community, the more you’ll both get out of these important years. Influence your child’s elementary school years and watch your kiddo flourish.

Chantal and her husband Eric have lived in Plano for 13 years, and in the DFW area since 2002. Their 11-year-old son Jack is his mom's partner in crime in exploring new places from restaurants to museums, parks, plays and festivals to libraries and churches. She has a 20+ year career working at global companies to help inspire and earn the trust of employees, customers and stakeholders through corporate communications and public relations. Chantal is passionate about the power of communication and its role in creating culture, confidence and connection, and is committed to helping people see themselves as leaders who can make a difference in other people's lives. You can connect with Chantal on Instagram

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