Something to keep in mind as the school year starts is the importance of being involved. Overall, you want to provide your child with a sense of a home-school connection. This means the child grows up feeling that my school values my parents and my parents appreciate my school.
At the school, this can happen in big ways like being a room-parent, helping plan class parties or volunteering time in the classroom. This can happen in smaller ways, by sending in the party supplies, keeping up with the weekly schedule and having open conversation about their daily experiences or attending extra curricular activities.
At home, this can include checking homework and helping them study, reading aloud daily and taking outings or finding websites related to what they are learning about in school. This can be as easy as telling them what you like about their school or teacher.
Children who grow up with this home-school connection from parent involvement tend to have better test scores and higher graduation rates. They tend to particpate more in the classroom and report greater enjoyment in school.
There are two general guidelines for deciding to address a grandparenting concern. The first is to decide if it is a health and safety issue. Let’s say a grandparent spanks, and you are strongly against spanking. This would be considered a health and safety issue, so even if they only visit a few days a year, address it. Speak with them about it and come to some conclusions. If it is not a health and safety issue, it’s better to let it go and allow them to build an individual relationship. When a grandparent is corrected often, they may pull back from the relationship which likely isn’t worth fixing the issue if not for health and safety.
The second is to consider how often they visit or how often the behavior occurs. Let’s say the grandparent gives the child a piece of candy each day. If they only vist a few days a year, this is likely not an issue. If they are your five-day-a-week childcare, this is likely an issue.
You might also weigh intent. Even when it is annoying to you, a grandparent may be coming from a place of love and connection. When you do address an issue, avoid blaming the grandparent. Blame yourself and your own concerns for behaviors, or blame the child and their reactions. Ask for help with the situation rather than blame. If you do address an issue, do this out of earshot of the child.
A mom in our program recently shared how she puts grandparent issues in perspective. When grandparents visit, she posts a strange quotation on the fridge to remind herself, “gnaw off their arm.” She says this reminds her whenever an issue arises that grandparents are likely the only other people in the world that would gnaw off their own arm to save her child’s life. It helps her to let the frustrating but managable things go.
Believe me, I know that finding enough time for work, errands, school and family can seem near impossible. Unfortunately, I also know that family time tends to fall at the bottom of the list. The other things on the list often have hard deadlines, so we meet them first and hope the rest falls into place. We let family time fill in the gaps. Making family time needs to move to the top of the list. Put it on the calendar if you have to.
- Whole Family Time – At least once a week. This can be a set-in-stone weekly dinner cooked together, a game night or a Sunday afternoon activity time.
- Couples Time – At least every other week. If you are parenting as a couple, find a time to focus on each other. It can be a movie night or dinner out, and it doesn’t have to be grand.
- Individual Pairs Time – At least once a month. Make time for each pair in the family to spend some time together. This can be at the playground or tossing a ball in the backyard. It can be watching a program together and talking about it or a trip to the grocery store if you are really focused on each other and communicating.
- Rituals and Routines – This can be a helpful approach to building in time. Plan a real playtime each morning, a time that you will put away the cell phone and turn off the TV and really play. Keep reading aloud as part of the bedtime routine long passed the age you thought they would listen.
Of course more is better, but these are minimum goals.