We all remember the different types of kids in our childhood schoolrooms. Some kids were super loud and funny. Others were smart and brainy. Some were athletic and popular, and others were painfully shy. We all probably remember, for better or for worse, where we fell in that schoolroom continuum.
Now you’re a parent, and perhaps you have one of those painfully shy children as your very own. What’s the best way to help your child bloom and participate in class? Here are some things to remember.
Give It Time
If you have young kids who are just beginning school, be sure you give them some time to get adjusted before worrying to much about class participation. Spending all day or even half a day in class can be a strange experience for the first several weeks. They may be overwhelmed with all the activity or be uncertain about how to interact with other kids.
Let your kids get to know their teacher and classmates at their own pace. Give them time to figure out rules of behavior and schoolroom expectations. Chances are they will warm up to the whole experience as time moves on.
Open Lines of Communication With the Teacher
Remember that you and your kid’s teachers need to work together to make the entire experience a positive one. Introduce yourself early on during the year and share any concerns you might have about your kids. Encourage your children’s teachers to contact you by phone or e-mail if they need any support or come up with helpful ideas you can implement at home.
Be sure to participate in parent/teacher conferences during the year. Talk with your kid’s teacher about the types of activities they are doing in class. Suggest ways that your kids might be able to participate more fully in a particular unit study by sharing something of their own. Compare notes regarding your kid’s behavior in class vs. at home and talk about why there might be differences.
Volunteer or Visit
There’s nothing like spending time in your kid’s schoolroom to get a more accurate picture of a typical day. Most classes welcome parent visits or volunteers. See if you can stop in once a week to read to the class or help a slower or more advanced group of students. Or, if your schedule doesn’t permit regular volunteering, take time to at least make a short visit so you can observe your kids with their teachers and classmates every once in awhile.
While you’re visiting, watch your child and observe what’s going on. Is your child avoiding activities that may be new or difficult? Are others teasing your child? Are the activities too easy and therefore boring for your child?
If you notice something like this, talk with the teacher about how to resolve the issue. Perhaps you can offer to teach your child how to play a classroom game at home to increase confidence. If something seems too difficult, perhaps a related easier task can be attempted. If the classroom seems boring, perhaps a more challenging activity can be introduced a few times a week.
Build Confidence Outside School
Use your time in the evenings and weekends wisely with your kids. If confidence is an issue, encourage learning new skills that can be applied later in the schoolroom. Sometimes kids prefer to struggle with tasks at their own pace at home before attempting them in a public place like in a class.
Consider signing up for outside activities. Sports, martial arts and music lessons can all help kids feel like they are mastering something. They also provide a way to allow them to share their skills with friends and teachers at a later time.
Although praising every single thing a child does is insincere and tends to backfire long term, offer real praise when it’s earned and deserved. If your kids really struggles with something until it is mastered, congratulate the accomplishment.
Foster Real Communication at Home
It’s easy to fall into simply living with your family members in the same house and not really working on relationships. You may be tired and stressed after a day at work. Your kids may be burned out after a day in class. Everyone may grab a bite to eat and crash in front of the computer or television for a few hours before bed.
Remember that even though it may take a little more effort, fostering real conversations with your kids can have long-term positive effects in their lives, your life and your entire relationship. Practice asking what was the best and worst thing in your child’s day, and then encourage your kids to ask you about your day. Although this may seem awkward at first, it is good practice in how to hold a caring conversation. Be sure to truly listen to answers; not just nod mindlessly while simultaneously checking your e-mail.
Encourage Positive Relationships
The more positive, supportive relationships kids have, the better. Help encourage good friendships that involve doing positive things together. Perhaps your kids can study with others in their class so they can ask questions and discuss things they didn’t understand with peers.
You might want to organize a small group of kids who can volunteer to help at a nursing home, package food at a local shelter, or clean up a local park. Doing something helpful and positive together can build confidence and create an environment where talking can happen more naturally while you work toward a common goal.
Kids may enjoy learning new skills. Consider signing up for an art class, a community drama class or a martial arts class. Fostering relationships between your kids and other non-academic teachers can help them feel more confident. That confidence can they translate to participating more in class.