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Goodbye Tears And Playground Fears: How To Approach Teachers For Help

18/10/2016 18:00

Hopefully by now, your child is feeling happier when saying goodbye to you at school. If you tried some of the strategies suggested in my last blog, I would love to know how you got on with them.

However, if the situation hasn't improved and your child is still having difficulty going into school then you will need to get the support of your child's teachers to help.

Before we begin, in case you are pondering whether it is necessary to involve the school, let me reassure you. You are absolutely doing the right thing. It is only when parents and teachers truly work together that a child's needs, especially one who has additional needs, can be met.

However, parents often say that knowing how to approach school meetings and get results is tricky. Asking teachers for support can be intimidating even for the most confident of parents.

If it makes you feel any better, believe it or not, teachers too may find being approached by parents quite a daunting prospect. Perhaps that is a topic for another blog!

So who is the best person in the school to approach for help in this instance and how can you make the most of the meeting time? Also, what can you ask the school to consider doing to practically support your child?

In all situations where you are planning to meet formally with staff at your child's school, it is best to think clearly beforehand about what you want to say and ultimately want to achieve. Schools are very busy places so you will probably wish to keep the meeting centred between the issues as you and the school see them and then move on to agreeing strategies to try and how to monitor how things are going (this one is very important and often forgotten).

So here are five steps to guide you.

Step 1: This may sound very obvious but book the meeting with the right person who can help. In a primary setting, this will probably be the class teacher and it might be appropriate to also ask if the person who is in charge of pastoral well-being or the Special Educational Needs Co-ordinator (SENCO) can attend. There is little point having a meeting if the person cannot ultimately make the decisions about what they can put in place to help.

Step 2: Be mindful that it is easy to get caught up relating every detail of the situation when emotions are running high. Therefore, note down beforehand, a brief overview of the situation for your own information. Include what the issue is, what you have done to address it so far and what you need from the school.

Prior to the meeting, you may wish to ask if the school can monitor any issues they observe during the school day. Be aware that at break and lunch times, the regular teacher may not be supervising so ask that whoever is out on duty could keep close eye to report how your child is managing at break time.

I mention break-times because in my experience, children who worry about leaving their parents in the morning are often the same ones who may also feel overwhelmed in the playground. These children are often those who are shyer, may have special needs or other issues which make them feel more vulnerable.

Step 3: If morning separations continue to be an issue, ask the school what they could do to help. For example, might the school be able to provide you with a copy of the teacher rota for the gate so you could include it on your child's timetable (referred to in my last blog) so they know who is going to be there to greet them. It is important, however that the members of staff are briefed on the situation and know how to warmly receive your child.

Could the school perhaps engineer it discreetly for your child to have a specific job to do in the morning with another child? For example, could your child and another become the lost property monitors in the morning, delivering the uniform in bags to the correct classes? Or could your child and a few others be given a specific role to do something outside for the younger children out on the playground who also might benefit.

Consistency is very important so your child gets to know the routine. Whatever you agree, it will generally be best to stick with it for a little while.

Step 4: Your child's school will probably have some excellent ideas about what they can do to help if play-times are an issue. This doesn't need to be complicated but ideally paired or small group activities are best to encourage social interaction. For example, encouraging i-spy games, word searches or collating a list of things that they see in the playground or names of children which begin with each letter of the alphabet. Or perhaps mini kits of lego put in zip-lock bags or 'thinking putty' where children are encouraged to model different objects and guess for each other's shapes or rubiks snakes (very good as they have no bits that can be lost) can be great.

These same strategies may also be helpful for children who feel lonely or lost at play-times including those who may be on the Autistic Spectrum who may benefit from a more structured approach to playing with other children.

Step 5: Quite often parents leave meetings happily but then wonder how they will know how things are progressing. Within the meeting, if it is not already offered, do ask how you can monitor your child's progress together. Can you meet again soon to check how things are going?

Good luck!

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