Dr. Rich Patterson

What Kids Need:  Positive Supports Everywhere

Parenting is painful at times, and getting kids to share with you can be even more difficult.  In this series What Kids Need, I am going to address that they need Positive Supports Everywhere.  This is particularly true at school.  Encourage kids to share with you anything that is bothering them at school.  Now, if you have a teenager and this is a new request from you to them, you will likely meet with some one-word answers like nothing, everything is fine.  Press forward and talk with them about something in the community, or something that happened nationally that caught your attention and involves kids.  By building trust with them conversationally, they will eventually start to share with you things about which you would not learn, had you not asked.

Be sure to report anything that you feel uncomfortable about, unsafe behaviors, or attitudes from kids that make you wonder.  As a former school administrator of 16 years, I can assure you that it is always good to get a heads up from parents.  Even if their hunch is incorrect, it is still something to be on the lookout for in the future.  It takes as many adults helping us raise kids as we can sometimes get so feel confident in sharing concerns with the child’s counselor, or school administrator.

Read the schools and school district code of conduct policies.  Often they are printed in the student handbook, which serves as a day planner for kids.  They should always be posted on the school’s website and the school district’s website as well.  Understand that for the most part, the school district’s policies are a bit more “generic” than the school site policies.  In general, the school site policies can go further in explanation and specifics than the school district’s policies.  Attendance is an example. If you read the attendance policy for the school district, and please do.  You will find it lack specifics, it may define absences a bit, and that is about it.  When you read the school’s policy on attendance, it will be definite.  Be familiar with these policies and talk with your child about them periodically.  Do this just at the beginning of the school year helps but by November much of that can be lost.  Refresh it quarterly and maybe turn it into a fun quiz time with your young person.  Ask them questions from the school’s policy and see if they know the answer.

Volunteer at the school, and you will learn much about their concerns, their finances, political decisions, and much more.  Just by showing up for a few hours a month, you will have a much better grounding about the school climate.  You can volunteer in the counseling center, volunteer to tutor students during or after school and serve on committees such as the building accountability committee, the parent group, safety committee, or any number of music and athletic parent groups.

Finally, you can help the school identify safety concerns at the school site.  By working with the building custodial team, or another parent related group, your eyes will undoubtedly see things that others do not.

I hope that you will encourage the school, your child, and yourself by putting in positive supports everywhere in your child’s life. Volunteer for a committee today and sit with your child and ask them what about the school bothers them from time to time.  I think you will find that they have thoughts that are worth pursuing.

Yours for Better Parenting,