We look forward to this time each year when parents have the opportunity to meet with their child's teachers. Parents might enter a parent-teacher conference full of questions relating to academic performance. Conferences give you the opportunity to inquire about your child’s progress and/or ask for more information about the curriculum. However, parents might be surprised when the conversation starts with a discussion about social skills, a very important piece of the school experience often overlooked. For some parents, talking with their child’s teacher about their expectations and learning about the teacher’s priorities for their child can be an eye-opening experience. There are many components to the school day that include opportunities for social and emotional learning.
During parent teacher conferences, is it more important to discuss a child’s academic development or their social/emotional well-being? This often asked question can be answered simply by stating that both are critical aspects to your child’s school life.
We, as educators, strongly advise to have a conference that does not in any way discount your child’s social and emotional needs, and looks at this piece of your child’s development equally with that of academics. “My child is having trouble with friends;” or “My child isn’t feeling confident on the playground;” or “My child is having difficulties navigating situations when they are not included;” “My child seems nervous about lunchtime because they have no one to sit with.” We often hear these common parental concerns. Providing your children with the tools to handle these situations will help them in all areas of their school life.
Parents might wonder if it is a waste of valuable conference time to focus on their child’s emotional well-being as opposed to how they are reading or have performed on their latest math test. We do not want to discount the importance of a child’s academic success or the importance of when they need that extra support in the classroom, but their social and emotional welfare should take up an equal part of the conversation.
Students that can find ways to feel good in the face of adversity (we have all been there) and can navigate many different situations on the playground are the same children that will hopefully take these life lessons outside the classrooms. The lessons on how to speak to your peers, how to be an ally to a friend and how to know when to get a teacher involved in a situation are invaluable. School is a place where they will have the chance to gain the support of their teachers, and families to guide them through life’s social and emotional challenges, hopefully making them adults who are better equipped and more resilient throughout their lives.
So, please, applaud your child’s academic successes, help them where they struggle in school, but remember to ask about your child’s behavior in the classroom, and don’t forget to share valuable insights of their personality that only a parent can know.
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