Is your child coming home from school and saying to you, “My teacher doesn’t like me” or, “I don’t like going to school!”? It can be hard to problem through these situations and wonder, Is my child overreacting or being dramatic? Or you worry that maybe their teacher is being hard on your child?
Some parents may react strongly to their child’s unhappy remarks and rush to the school to figure out what is going on, whereas other parents may focus on their child and try to provide them with the tools to maneuver through these interactions. Either way, these scenarios can be tricky on many levels, and often involve some detective work.
Here are some helpful tips to help navigate through your child’s teacher issues:
Gather the details. It is important that you ask your child specific questions and gather as much information as you can: What are they saying or doing? How frequently is this happening? What is happening before and after? Are there other students involved? Sometimes, children can misinterpret their teacher’s words or behaviors as threatening or mean, which is why it is important to ask your child specific questions because it can then help you to work through the situation.
This is a great opportunity to teach your child new skills. For example, help them brainstorm things they can do at their desk quietly if they finish their work quickly. If they are struggling to complete a task, how can they ask for help? If they see another student doing something they shouldn’t be doing, should they follow that classmate’s lead?
This is also a great opportunity to help them reframe how they feel about their teacher. Ask them to tell you about some positive interactions they had with their teacher, something the teacher taught them that was a lot of fun, or something the teacher said to them that was funny. Some kids can get stuck when it comes to negative interactions in their school day, so helping to build those skills and reminding them of the fun interactions they had with their teacher can be a great follow-up to investigative questions.
Get the teacher involved. If you decide there might be something going on, do not be afraid to include the teacher in this conversation and let them know some of your concerns. Being a teacher can be a difficult job. Class sizes can be overwhelming and there may be limited support for children in the class who are struggling. These pressures can be a lot to deal with as an educator, so it is important that you are mindful of these possibilities in the classroom.
How you present the information to the teacher is key. Start the conversation with the goal of collaboration and problem-solving in mind. No teacher wants to hear, “My child thinks you don’t like them” or, “My child feels like you pick on them.” Try phrasing it in a way that involves a specific end goal: “I would love to see a stronger connection between you and my child” or, “I wonder how we can support my child feeling more comfortable in the classroom.”
Problem-solve and plan. Once you have made the teacher aware of your concerns, it is always good to brainstorm ideas and plan. If you are at this point, it is likely the teacher has responded well to what your child is feeling. What are some things that could support your child feeling more positively connected to the teacher? Is it possible for the teacher to check in with your child at the beginning of the day? Are there ways the teacher can reduce expectations in the area(s) your child struggles in to better set your child up for success? By brainstorming solutions, you are letting the teacher know you are there to work toward solutions, together.
Get additional support, if needed. Sometimes you can do all the right things and it still feels like the end goal is not being reached. If you have gathered useful information from your child, gently brought it to the teacher’s attention, attempted to collaborate to solve the problem(s), and your child is still struggling in class, it might be time to get additional support. Often, schools will have teaching supervisors who can be involved in the situation or, if needed, seek support from the school principal or the assistant principal. On rare occasions, children can struggle significantly and may not want to go to school anymore or start exhibiting anxiety or behavioral challenges. Therefore, it is imperative to involve a higher level of support, if you feel it is required. Sometimes having a full team approach can help everyone feel supported, so don’t be afraid to reach out to other supports to join you in problem-solving.
Ultimately, there is no right way to handle these situations. Sometimes it is a small issue that can be easily resolved on its own or requires a bit of support from you, whereas other times it might escalate to a larger issue and require additional support from the school. Take some time to assess the situation and consult with professionals if you need more support or insight. Your child is your priority so do what feels right for you and your family.
Ashlee and Lisa are child psychologists who created KidsConnectPsychology as a place for children and families to access tools, supports, and therapy. For digital downloads, parenting tool kits, information about parent counselling, school consultations, daycare consultations, and more, visit kidsconnectpsychology.com. Follow on Facebook and Instagram.
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