It's that time of the year. Every day, without fail, the backpacks of my youngest boys show up with a note or flier announcing one end-of-year celebration or another, as well as a to-do list for projects to gift the teachers. To some, this isn't a big deal—especially if your child has had an incredible year with a wonderful teacher and a positive classroom experience.
But what happens if your child didn't have an incredible year? What happens if you and your child especially did not have a wonderful teacher? How do you deal with the pressures from overzealous classroom parents who, as was the case for me recently, ask that your child express how much he "loves his teacher" or come up with a poem to express their appreciation for how kind she has been to him? How do you teach your child to take the high road and express thanks for the year, without compromising his true feelings about other aspects of his school experience?
I have some tips to handle the pressure of end-of-year demands, while also taking the opportunity to make these teaching moments for your child.
Talk to child about his overall impression of the year
At this point, your kids (and you) are tired of school, but take the time—whether during a walk or at the dinner table—to talk to your child about the year. Ask your child questions about how he feels at the moment about his class, his school, his teacher, his friends. Make the conversation casual and don't push for answers. The goal is to get a sense of where your child is emotionally and mentally. You may be holding on to a grudge from that one time that teacher did that one thing, but your child might not even remember it or care anymore. It will help you in guiding their participation in the teacher appreciation projects.
Speak up for your child
Chances are that the classroom parent had a stellar year and an even more stellar relationship with her child's teacher. And of course! She was there nearly every single day, working as a volunteer assistant and keeper-of-all-things-awesome for her child in the classroom. Her enthusiasm and affection for the teacher might blind her to the fact that other children and parents might not have had such a positive year. Speak up for your child and politely request that the organizers provide you with different options where your child can participate without having to compromise his true feelings or lie about his experiences and emotions.
Helping your child to participate in a group effort without compromising his true thoughts, feelings, or opinions is a great lesson for the future and one he will need to refer to many times throughout his life. It takes confidence and courage to stand up for yourself and for what you believe in, even when the mass opinion is different. But it's also a good opportunity to help your child identify something positive and good in every situation. So for example, maybe he can't say that he loves his teacher, or really think of a time where he felt loved by the teacher, but he is reading better because of her teaching and he's gotten stronger at math. He also made new friends this year and really enjoyed a certain field trip they took together. There is often something positive to be found, even in what may seem to be a bad situation. Teaching your child to identify the good rather than dwell on the negative experiences helps to make him a more positive, well-rounded, happy person and teaches compassion and the ability to compromise and negotiate.
Finally, you have the right to decide what you feel comfortable gifting the teacher or anyone else, and you are not obligated to participate in every single call for volunteers needed for the very many end-of-year festivities held at school and in individual classrooms. Avoid stress and don't spread yourself or your wallet too thin to save face in front of the other parents or school staff.
A homemade card and drawing from your child is just fine; participate only when you or your child can or want to participate. Don't worry about peer pressure—it's not a contest.
Overall, focus on the light at the end of the tunnel: The school year is over and your child will be home for the summer and looking forward to meeting his teacher for next year in a short time!
Do you have a tip for how to deal with end-of-year pressures for other moms? Share with us in the comments below.