With the constant chatter about the so-called dangers of
both and under and over-involved parenting, many parents are beginning to
wonder how and when to draw the line. They’re also left to wonder how this
applies to a child’s education. Is it best to step back and let the teacher
handle all things academic? Is it OK to speak up on behalf of a child who is
struggling? When do parents cross the line between being an attentive parent
and being a helicopter parent?
As a child and adolescent psychotherapist, I field a lot of calls from parents concerned about school
issues but not sure how to proceed. Homework battles, peer problems, and
academic struggles are issues that bleed over from school to home, and parents often
feel like they’re picking up the pieces of the school day each night.
One mom tries hard to encourage her daughter to speak up if
she needs help, but her daughter (age 8) is very quiet. She has a tendency
to try to get through things. When mom steps in to seek guidance, she’s
consistently told that her daughter needs to learn to ask for help on her own. Her
daughter, however, is caught in a pattern of surviving the day and falling
apart in the evening. She’s under stress and no longer enjoying school.
shows that parental involvement in education improves academic outcomes for
kids. When parents are involved in a child’s education, the child benefits in
Better school attendance
Positive attitude about school
Positive classroom experiences
Parents also benefit from a strong connection with the
school. When parents take an active role in their child’s education, they experience
the following benefits:
Better understanding of the child’s academic
strengths and weaknesses
Knowledge about what the child learns each
Social connectedness with other parents in the
Positive relationship with the child’s teacher
Increased understanding of the child’s
Here’s the catch: Some parents tell me that they worry about
being viewed as the over-involved “helicopter” parent who doesn’t trust the
teacher if they get too involved while others worry that juggling family
and work makes it difficult to be as involved as other parents who may stay at home. And some, like
the mom above, are turned off from involvement because they feel dismissed. How
can parents reap the benefits of involvement without the negative feedback?
It’s a balancing act, for sure, but the benefits of involvement outweigh the
potential pitfalls of being mislabeled.
Just because you can’t volunteer in the classroom or attend
every event doesn’t mean you have to feel completely out of the loop. Find out
how the school and your child’s teacher shares information and get it on it.
Between email, Facebook pages and groups, classroom websites, and weekly
newsletters, schools often do their best to keep parents informed.
Sometimes the amount of information coming home feels
overwhelming. Factor in 10 to 15 minutes a day to review school related
information so that you know what’s happening.
Kids love to engage with parents in the classroom and even
if you only volunteer a couple of times a year to share your specific
expertise, this helps you get to know the other kids in the class.
Offer to help the classroom with a couple of projects that showcase
your talents and give you the opportunity to connect with the class.
Build a connection
with the teacher.
Drop off and pick up are generally not the best times for teacher
check-ins because teachers are pulled in too many directions at once, but it’s
always nice to stop and say hello. I always encourage parents to ask the
teacher his or her preferred method of communication and establish positive
If you have questions or concerns, ask if a conference or
phone call will suffice. Get to know the teacher just as you would like the
teacher to get to know you.
Connect with other
You don’t have to join the PTA (although many parents enjoy
volunteering their time alongside other parents to strengthen the school
community) to establish connections with other parents. When parents get to
know other parents of kids in the class, it helps build a positive classroom
A lot of parents confide in me that they worry about
striking the right balance to help their kids feel successful at school. The
truth is that parents can’t engineer academic or social success for their kids,
but building healthy ties with a child’s school and maintaining active involvement
in a child’s education does improve academic and social outcomes for the child.