How to be an involved working parent without feeling guilty?
Amity International School Amsterdam provides tips on how you can increase involvement with your child’s school and successfully navigate the overwhelming demands of homework, school communications and your own work.
With end-of-year theatre productions, school reports, day trips and parent-teacher conferences, this time of year can be quite the struggle for working parents with school-age children. Juggling family life and work can be hard, and being involved in school life is sometimes not the first thing on your priority list. Here are some handy tips to show you how you can become more involved with your child's school.
1. Start small
Your Instagram feed might be overflowing with photos of parents doing all kinds of active things, but (luckily) that’s not how things are playing out in the lives of every parent. Being an active parent doesn’t have to be as big a commitment as it might seem at first. Since there are so many things happening in a school, start by simply keeping your eyes and ears open.
For busy working parents, a good place to start is by writing down the key dates of upcoming events that are published in parent newsletters. Can you try to attend one or two key events, such as a back-to-school networking night or the next parent-teacher conference? Your presence at school-wide events, even if it’s sporadic or when your child is not directly involved, helps build a community at large. You will meet other members of the school community and show your support for all the children.
Can you share your skills with the wider school community?
2. Use your (work) skills
Working parents are incredibly busy - but they can also bring a lot to the table. They have skills and experiences that other parents do not have, and sharing those skills can benefit the wider school community. In a time when more schools are adopting curricula based on real-world problems and information, parents can make a valuable contribution by sharing first-hand information about work, hobbies, history, and other personal experiences.
If you’re bilingual, you could volunteer to translate school correspondence for non-English speaking parents. Or you could be the first point of contact for new members of the school community who speak the same native language. Relocating is daunting and being welcomed in your own language to a new school community can be incredibly reassuring!
3. Look at existing school structures
One easy way to become involved with your child’s school is to join its Family Association (FA) and attend and participate in meetings if your schedule allows. Typically, FAs organise events and activities that benefit teachers and students and instil a sense of community within the school. It’s also a great way of getting to know new members of the school community and sharing your experiences (and challenges!) with other parents.
If you struggle to make school meetings, go to the first and last meetings of the year, at least, so that you will know what is planned. Choose an activity or event that works for you and do your bit to support the goals of the group.
4. Find a healthy balance
There are many potential roadblocks for family engagement in schools causing additional stress. Therefore, remind yourself that it’s okay to treat your own health as a priority. Self-care equals self-preservation. Children don't stop learning about values and relationships when they exit a classroom; they also constantly observe how the significant adults in their lives treat one another, how decisions are made and executed, and how problems are solved. So, try to focus on the things that do work out. It will provide your child with an invaluable learning opportunity without you even knowing it.
Remind yourself that it’s okay to treat your own health as a priority
5. Demonstrate a positive view on learning
Parental engagement does not only occur inside schools. It is also about communicating your larger values and attitudes regarding education and the hopes, dreams, and expectations you hold for your children. Communicating these values motivates young people to be persistent when faced with challenging educational tasks.
Even though you might not be active at school, you can still discuss school activities and monitor out of school activities. Dinner conversations, games, reading time, family sports, home organisation, and daily routines all contribute to your child’s academic achievement at school, and at the same time, children get consistent messages from the important adults in their lives. When children observe that home and school are engaged in a respectful partnership for their benefit, they are likely to develop more positive attitudes about school and achieve more.
6. Talk to your employer
The hectic pace of modern life can make school involvement seem out of reach for many parents. Luckily, more employers, concerned about the quality of the future workforce, are starting to adopt policies that allow parents time off to participate in a school's planning and management team or volunteer time.
Parent involvement in schools allows parents and staff to work together in respectful and supportive ways, creating an environment in which understanding, trust, and respect can thrive. However, even though getting involved with school is important, the top priority is engaging with your child. Don’t feel guilty when things don’t go the way you’ve planned: showing that there are more ways that lead to Rome is also a perfect learning opportunity for your child!
Amity International School Amsterdam is a young and vibrant international school in the Amsterdam region offering education to children ages 3 to 16. It is Amity’s mission to empower everyone in their school’s community to thrive and make a positive difference. For more information or questions, contact them now.