The Whole Child
Establishing Strong Family-School Communication

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Stable, quality relationships between a child's family and other caregivers are essential. Make sure the lines of communication with your child's caregiver or teacher are wide open. Look for opportunities to find out what's happening when your child is in group care or at school. Take advantage of the chance to talk with caregivers during your child's arrival and departure at day care or school. Even these brief chats about your child, her interaction with friends or family, and her activities do much to build relationships of trust between you and your child's caregiver or teacher. Be sure to keep them updated on positive developments or any problems about which they should be aware. Group meetings and social events are also very helpful in creating a climate of families and teachers working together. Use regularly scheduled parent-teacher conferences as a time to listen to what's really going on at school.

Active Listening
Listening skills are the basis of communication. When you assume the role of active listener, you're communicating to whomever is speaking that you've heard her correctly, understood what she's said, and that you care. During a parent-teacher conference, for example, always maintain good eye contact. Make sure you're not distracted or restless, instead concentrate on what the teacher is saying.

It's also important to let the other person know you understand what they're saying. Try to listen and rephrase what the teacher says to you. By restating her words with words of your own, you verify that you're listening and make sure you understand what she's saying. Be sure to ask questions to ensure that you completely understand the teacher's point of view.

Dealing with Anger
It's vital to establish rapport with your child's teacher. But how do you handle situations that result in angry feelings? The key is keeping the lines of communication open. There are ways to cope with angry feelings that can help you keep control of yourself and the situation. First of all, recognize that you're angry. Take a breath to regain control. Try to understand what you and the teacher are feeling and put these feelings into words. Control your reaction and give yourself time before you reply. One of the ways to maintain control is by recognizing your flashpoints, the kinds of issues or situations that especially bother you.

Families and Children in Crisis
These same skills can be applied to your children, especially in times of crisis. A family in crisis is a child in crisis. Whether it's illness, death, losing a job, or a divorce, family crises can present you with great challenges. During upsetting and difficult times, you can help your children cope by letting them know you support and care about them. First of all, tell the truth. Don't ignore the situation or pretend there's nothing wrong. Avoid unrealistic assurances, promising everything is going to be all right when, from your child's point of view, it won't be. Listen to what your child is saying, and help her express her feelings and worries.

Keep in constant contact with your child's teachers or caregivers so you can connect what's going on at school with what's going on at home. Play and creative activities are excellent outlets for a child to express her innermost thoughts and fears. Imaginative play, water play, and finger paint help children express feelings and relieve stress. Try not to overreact to tears or other upset behavior. Crying brings relief and it's helpful to your child. When life gets too tough for children and they feel helpless, they often revert to less mature behavior such as thumb sucking or bedwetting. You can help them feel better by giving them opportunities to make simple choices so they feel like they are more in charge, and to combat feelings of helplessness and panic that often accompany a crisis.

For more tips on working with caregivers and educators, especially if your child has special needs, visit the PBS Parents Web site, Inclusive Communitites.

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