Responding to parent teacher meetings

At this time of year most parents of school aged children will find themselves having interviews with their child’s teacher. This can be a mixed experience as we may hear of our children’s achievements but also those areas of their school life and learning that are presenting challenges. 

Teachers make suggestions about how you might support your child at home, though it is generally understood that a parent’s capacity at any given time to do more or less can vary. However this feedback does allow parents to make important decisions (such as seeking further assessment outside of school or managing their study load with other activities) or take steps to change some aspect of a child’s routine (for example, homework, routines around sleep or socialising). 

Sometimes small shifts in direction now can see a trajectory change which later down the track can mean very significant differences, whether these be related to social, learning, behaviour or emotional functioning. The key is to not be too overwhelmed. Very often, it is small incremental changes that can make the difference, when added up over time. Very rarely is it ever helpful to engage in completely radical change, though I would also concede sometimes this is necessary. 

It is useful to prioritise first and then in a planned way go about gradually working through each little change. Each of these little changes might have a number of steps to actually get there and skipping over these steps can mean that we don’t give it a chance to properly succeed. Take for example a situation where the teacher may have provided feedback that your child’s literacy skills need consolidating and that reading for 20 minutes a night would really benefit them. You might start with sitting down with them (well before over-tiredness takes hold) and read an interesting website together – reading to them first and inviting them to read a few sentences. Make sure it is at a time when you don’t feel rushed and it can be enjoyable for both. This shouldn’t be a long time and may start pretty small – even a few minutes. Consistency is key and not making it too hard to achieve for either parent or child is important. Eventually depending on how your child reacts to this – you may quite quickly get to the stage of them reading to you or independently but you can see that any step in the right direction is exactly that. 

All too often we put mammoth expectations on ourselves as parents and as a result, on our kids. If we focus on planned action, rather than reaction, we will find ourselves moving forward without feeling overwhelmed. But if you do find yourself getting overwhelmed – take heart in knowing that this is a very human and understandable experience and that getting professional help can sometimes be enough to nudge you or your child in the direction that you wish to go.  

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