As the author of “Emotional Resilience and the Expat Child,” I have worked with over 8000+ families as they relocate around the world.
The child’s image (social or self) is critical to how successful they will be in the school setting. It seems like summer holidays just started, but International teachers and students are already heading back to get ready for another school year. What happens if your child negatively starts off the school year?
Bad raps happen
Getting a bad rap is as easy as one lousy comment made at the wrong time, or not reaching out to the right kids on campus. Sometimes it can be for liking the ‘bad’ teacher. It can be for wearing a weird t-shirt or even not wearing your hair in a style they are used to seeing. Amazing how quickly a community will judge others. Even more amazing how this happens in schools!
Parents can be vital in helping their child learn to negotiate in this crucial social climate. Not all parents help! Sometimes, parents can do more harm for their child because they are the ones creating the negative feelings, so it goes from the mother or father being pushy to the child being obnoxious in the minds of others in the community. When in fact, the child has not done anything.
Don’t set your child up for failure because as a parent you are overstepping your boundaries. As parents, we all want to connect with our child’s teacher, but she doesn’t need a new BFF. Other parents see your interactions, and it might create some negative feelings from other parents as well as the teacher.
What parents can do
Using simple language and being truthful. “In the past, my daughter was rude to others, but now she is older she understands how important it is to work together on those joint projects.” These type of words given to other parents while working on the PTA, or attending school events will help shift the thoughts about your child. But a parent can never take the responsibility for their child’s behavior and fix it. If your child needs to make an apology, it has to come from your child, not you.
Tips for kids
#1 – Search out a child that is well liked and try to see why you are so different. Are you standoffish and he is warm and welcoming – seek to master one skill this ‘expert’ does that you do not do?
#2 – Compare yourself to the peer group you would want to be involved with. Do they all wear the school colors and you only wear black? Don’t copy them but think about how you present yourself. Most kids want to connect and be part of a group. Perhpas, you could acquire some of their articles that they have. If everyone carries a backpack and you still have a roller case for your books and supplies – change. If everyone eats the school lunch, try to give up your homemade brown paper bag sandwiches.
#3 – Understand the importance of good impressions and see each new situation in a school as unique and give it your best shot. Sometimes a change in one class will leak over into other situations you are involved in. With any change, kids and teachers will start seeing you in a new light. You don’t have to be the quiet Freshman you were or the awkward Sophomore you were – hone your intuitive style and make a fresh start this year.
Tips for Parents
#1 – Do not say to your child’s teacher, “Must be nice to have had the summer off!” Instead, say something like “I hope you’re refreshed and ready for ten months of go, go, go!” Remember that a lot of teachers spend their summers upgrading their credentials or planning coursework. Keep your passive-aggressive comments to yourself.
#2 – Don’t try to discuss major issues during the drop-off time, instead set up a meeting with the teacher. Major issues need to be brought to the teacher’s attention ASAP such as a death in the family, a divorce or a recent move, but these can be done by email, so the teacher knows the needed information. Let the dust settle at the start of the new school year and then set up an appointment for the minor things you feel the teacher should know about your child. Remember when you are dropping off or picking up your child, the teacher still had 24+ kids that he or she is taking care of so this is not the time to talk.
#3 – Don’t freak out over class placement! Not everybody gets the teacher they “think” they want. Another teacher might bring something unexpected to the table. A child not being with their best friend might open up a whole new world of socialization and skills.