The beginning of the school year is just around the corner, and although parents everywhere are ready to send their children back to school there is a group of parents each year struggling to find their place. Kindergarten families everywhere are swimming in the newness and uncertainty of the school year ahead of them.
The variety of lists on how to prepare your child for kindergarten is endless, but what about ideas for helping your kindergarten parents feel ready as well? My hope is that with these ideas below you will be able to come alongside your kindergarten families and help them successfully navigate their first year with ease.
Tip 1: Communication
The key to building trust with families is strong communication. In kindergarten, the majority of families hear little to nothing from their child when the school day is over. The exhaustion is real and they typically see the tired meltdown mode of their sweet child until bedtime arrives. With this in mind, communication is essential to keeping your parents informed.
A weekly email with the week’s activities or themes is a great way to keep the lines of communication open. When it comes to kindergarten parents, you cannot over communicate. More is better. It takes planning, patience and consistency to do this well and in the long run you will experience a deeper level of trust with your families and a smooth sailing school year. You can use these editable newsletter and calendar templates to help get you started. Tech tip: Save them as a PDF, delete the ones you don’t need, then email the months’ calendar or weekly newsletter instead of sending home paper copies!
Tip 2: Assume the Best
The amount of questions you will answer in the first few weeks will feel endless. Parents want to feel prepared, informed, and ready. With today’s technology, the majority of communication takes place online. E-mails and texts are the quickest way for families to communicate, but can also leave room for misinterpretation. Always assume the best of your families.
Emotions run high the first few weeks of school for every household. Kids are tired, schedules are still adjusting, and parents may see a different side of their child once they begin school. This can be concerning and feel urgent. A comment after school or a quick drop by in the morning may catch you off guard, but remembering that parents really want the best for their kids will help you navigate this with ease. Let them know you are for them and willing to partner together with them.
Tip 3: Help them Learn
Teaching does not come naturally to most individuals. Homework can be one of the most dreaded times of a family’s day together. Keep this in mind as you send home projects and activities. Your goal is to help your parents learn how to help their students. Give them helpful ideas, a small blip in an email on how to read with their child, this page of tips for reading at home with their child, or send home projects that develop this skill. Parents need to be guided in how to help their child learn best.
Many times, as teachers, we have the responsibility to communicate with parents how their choices at home are crossing over into the classroom. There have been many times that I have had to explain the importance of breakfast before school or getting a solid night of sleep effects their child’s school day. A kind and simple note in an e-mail helps parents understand that their little one still needs a solid 10-12 hours a night for a successful school day. Sometimes they really just don’t know until you help them understand. In my experience, they always want to help, but sometimes just don’t know because they don’t see what we, as teachers, see.
Tip 4: Involvement
The best way to partner with families in their kindergarten year is to show them how they can be involved. I don’t mean PTO sign-ups and room mom help, although, they can both be very helpful. I use meet the teacher night to find out what each family would be willing to be involved in and I provide a list of options that suit all needs. Maybe it is as simple as sending materials to school from home. I loved using huge ziploc bags and filling them with all of the supplies they needed to help with what I was sending home–crayons, scissors, hole punch, etc. This made sure they weren’t missing anything and could truly help me!
Find a way to get each family plugged in regardless of their working hours and availability. When families feel involved, they feel a sense of belonging and investment. Give them a place to belong and they will thrive.
Tip 5: Consistency
Consistency is defined as being unchanging in nature over time. The best way to build trust and a strong relationship with your kindergarten parents is by being a consistent teacher. Parents will know what to expect from you and when. Make your goals attainable and focus on three areas you will aim to be consistent in this year. I would suggest communication as one of your main goals. A weekly e-mail or a letter home means the world to kindergarten parents. The more informed they are, the safer they feel.
Another idea is to focus on consistency in expectations for their students’ include behavior. When you show parents your commitment to consistency in the small things, you build trust and establish a solid routine for your classroom. Consistency equals reliability.
By following these five tips and keeping them in mind this year, you will set your kindergarten parents up for success! A parent who feels informed and safe will be your best advocate for the school year. It’s time to prepare parents for kindergarten. Happy teaching!