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While each item on the the list of school supplies you receive is both appreciated and desperately needed—those aren't the most important things we need from you. We aren't talking money or material items, either. We're talking relationships—our relationship—as parent and educator.


How can we build a strong relationship? How can I be an important member of your village? And how can you be a key part of your child's school community?

These are the “things" that we really, truly need from you to accomplish that.

1. Trust

We totally get it. Leaving your child with someone you hardly know and trusting them to watch, care for, love, teach and return them home safely is no easy feat. But please trust us. We love what we do. We are not here for the paycheck. We do it because we love children—your children. We want what is best for each individual child and whatever their unique needs might be.

In return, we promise to trust you, too. We promise not to judge you or your methods. You know your children better than anyone, and any input and feedback you have is priceless information.

Tell us about your home life, what you did on the weekend, and what "works" at home! We LOVE to hear about life outside of school. It connects us to you and your child in a way that we often miss out on. The stronger the connection, the stronger the trust.

2. Respect

You are your child's first teacher. You're the person they look up to the most. If you want your child to have respect for me, you are the best model to show them how. When you walk into the classroom, let's both try our best to take the time to make eye contact, greet one another and maybe even chat for a second when possible. We don't need to be best friends—but being friendly with each other can go a long way.

We will show the same respect—not just to you, but also to your children. It is our job to model respectful interactions with each and every child and parent who walks through our classroom door. And we take that job very seriously.

3. Time

Ah—time. There just never seems to be enough of it. We know that mornings can be crazy (for us too!) and just trying to get out the door feels like you've already run a marathon (sometimes before you've even had your coffee!). BUT—taking the time to slow down when possible could benefit your child in many ways.

We would love it if you could give yourself a couple of extra minutes to try to incorporate, promote or practice some self-help skills in the morning—let them get their shoes on, jacket on, zippers closed. It's easier and faster for you to do it for them in the short term, but this is a better long-term confidence and independence building strategy.

(And you can sip your coffee while you watch them in action! ?)

4. Communication

Let's promise to reach out when there's something we need to talk about. What happens in your child's life outside of school can impact everything, including: negative or withdrawn behaviors, participation level, friendships, appetite and so on. How children deal with stress is a MAJOR factor in a teacher/child relationship.

Tell me about anything stressful that might have an affect on your child. Maybe you guys are moving, there was a death in the family, or even something seemingly innocuous like a minor change in your child's schedule. You could even just shoot me a quick email about an emotional morning full of meltdowns and tantrums. It will help me to start problem solving faster and with more direction.

5. An open mind

Feel free to ask me questions if there's something you need more detail on, or if you don't agree with a method or subject we're implementing. I'd love to have an open, respectful conversation and offer a new perspective.

I know it can be hard—but try to understand that we are doing our best to please 20-30 families, and not everyone is going to be happy all the time. We certainly are not trying to make anyone unhappy though, so let's work together to understand where one another is coming from.

6. A simple thanks

Think of a room full of 20+ 3, 4 or 5 year olds. It is fairly chaotic. It's full of hungry, sleepy and enthusiastic tiny humans who have big emotions to express—and they often do so by screaming, crying, laughing, hiding—and most likely anything else you can possibly imagine!

That being said, every single piece of artwork created, morning meeting completed, snack thoughtfully made, story read, toy cleaned up, etc. are all amazing feats of teamwork between your child and their teachers.

With every nugget of knowledge your child comes home discussing—they probably learned that nugget from a teacher who just got glue on their favorite shirt, had a crying child in their arms and was wondering when they'd be able to sit down for lunch. Hearing "thank you" from parents is profoundly meaningful and validating for us. Those simple words are appreciated more than you know.

You can also express your gratitude in other ways—not just with words. Offer to come in and read a story, contribute something to the classroom that goes with the curriculum (don't think expensive—bring in a bag of leaves in the fall!).


We know the start of a school year can not only make the kiddos nervous, but parents as well.

Think of this list as a loose guide—we don't expect perfect families 365 days of the year. Bad days happen—both at home and at school.

More than anything we just want an environment where your children will succeed, both academically and emotionally.

The best way to ensure this is to have open, honest and respectful communication channels—between us and with your child.

Let's be a team. Let's build each other up, and help each other out. Let's have an awesome school year!

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There are few kids television shows as successful as PAW Patrol. The Spin Masters series has spawned countless toys and clothing deals, a live show and now, a movie.

That's right mama, PAW Patrol is coming to the big screen in 2021.

The big-screen version of PAW Patrol will be made with Nickelodeon Movies and will be distributed by Paramount Pictures.

"We are thrilled to partner with Paramount and Nickelodeon to bring the PAW Patrol franchise, and the characters that children love, to the big screen," Spin Master Entertainment's Executive Vice President, Jennifer Dodge, announced Friday.

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"This first foray into the arena of feature film marks a significant strategic expansion for Spin Master Entertainment and our properties. This demonstrates our commitment to harnessing our own internal entertainment production teams to develop and deliver IP in a motion picture format and allows us to connect our characters to fans through shared theatrical experiences," Dodge says.

No word on the plot yet, but we're gonna bet there's a problem, 'round Aventure Bay, and Ryder and his team of pups will come and save the day.

We cannot even imagine how excited little PAW Patrol fans will be when this hits theatres in 2021. It's still too early to buy advance tickets but we would if we could!

News

In the middle of that postpartum daze, the sleepless nights, the recovery, the adjustment to a new schedule and learning the cues of a new baby, there are those moments when a new mom might think, I don't know how long I can do this.

Fortunately, right around that time, newborns smile their first real smile.

For many mothers, the experience is heart-melting and soul-lifting. It's a crumb of sustenance to help make it through the next challenges, whether that's sleep training, baby's first cold, or teething. Each time that baby smiles, the mother remembers, I can do this, and it's worth it.

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Dayna M. Kurtz, LMSW, CPT a NYC-based psychotherapist and author of Mother Matters: A Holistic Guide to Being a Happy, Healthy Mom, says she sees this in her clinical practice.

"One mother I worked with recounted her experience of her baby's first smile. At eight weeks postpartum, exhausted and overwhelmed, she remembered her baby smiling broadly at her just before a nighttime feeding," Kurtz says. "In that moment, she was overcome by tremendous joy and relief, and felt, for the first time, a real connection to her son."

So what is it about a baby's smile that can affect a mother so deeply? Can it all be attributed to those new-mom hormones? Perhaps it stems from the survival instincts that connect an infant with its mother, or the infant learning social cues. Or is there something more going on inside our brains?

In 2008, scientists in Houston, TX published their research on the topic. Their study, "What's in a Smile? Maternal Brain Responses to Infant Facial Cues", takes data from the MRI images of 26 women as they observed images of infants smiling, crying, or with a neutral expression.

The images included the mother's own infant alternated with an unknown infant of similar ethnicity and in similar clothing and position. In each image, the baby displayed a different emotion through one of three facial expressions; happy, neutral, or sad. Researchers monitored the change in the mothers' brain activity through the transitions in images from own-infant to unknown-infant, and from happy to neutral to sad and vice versa.

The results?

"When first-time mothers see their own baby's face, an extensive brain network appears to be activated, wherein affective and cognitive information may be integrated and directed toward motor/behavioral outputs," wrote the study's authors. Seeing her infant smile or cry prompts the areas of the brain that would instigate a mother to act, whether it be to comfort, care for, or caress and play with the baby.

In addition, the authors found that reward-related brain regions are activated specifically in response to happy, but not sad, baby faces. The areas of the brain that lit up in their study are the same areas that release dopamine, the "pleasure chemical." For context, other activities that elicit dopamine surges include eating chocolate, having sex, or doing drugs. So in other words, a baby's smile may be as powerful as those other feel-good experiences.

And this gooey feeling moms may get from seeing their babies smile isn't just a recreational high—it serves a purpose.

This reward system (aka dopaminergic and oxytocinergic neuroendocrine system) exists to motivate the mother to forge a positive connection with the baby, according to Aurélie Athan, PhD, director of the Reproductive & Maternal Psychology Laboratory (a laboratory that created the first graduate courses of their kind in these subjects).

These networks also promote a mother's ability to share her emotional state with her child, which is the root of empathy. "A mother cries when baby cries, smiles when baby smiles," Athan says.

While there's a physiological explanation underlying that warm-and-fuzzy sensation elicited by a smile, there may be other factors at play too, Kurtz says.

"In my clinical practice, I often observe a stunning exchange between a mother and her baby when the latter smiles at her. A mother who is otherwise engaged in conversation with me may be, for that moment, entirely redirected to focus on her little one," Kurtz says. "This kind of attention-capturing on the part of the baby can enable and cultivate maternal attunement—a mother's ability to more deeply connect with her infant. The quality of attunement in early childhood often sets the stage for one's relationship patterns in the future."

Whether a physiological response, a neural activation, simple instinct, or the tightening of emotional connection, the feeling generated by babies' smiles is a buoy in the choppy ocean of new parenthood.

And while the first smile may be the most magical by virtue of its surprise and the necessity of that emotional lift, the fuzzy feeling can continue well into that baby's childhood and beyond. It keeps telling parents, you've got this!

[This was originally published on Apparently]

Life

Chrissy Teigen is one of the most famous moms in the world and definitely one of the most famous moms on social media.

She's the Queen of Twitter and at least the Duchess of Instagram but with a massive following comes a massive dose of mom-shame, and Teigen admits the online comments criticizing her parenting affects her.

"It's pretty much everything," Teigen told Today, noting that the bulk of the criticism falls into three categories: How she feeds her kids, how she uses her car seats and screen time.

"Any time I post a picture of them holding ribs or eating sausage, I get a lot of criticism," she explained. "Vegans and vegetarians are mad and feel that we're forcing meat upon them at a young age. They freak out."

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Teigen continues: "If they get a glimpse of the car seat there is a lot of buckle talk. Maybe for one half of a second, the strap slipped down. And TV is another big one. We have TV on a lot in my house. John and I work on television; we love watching television."

Teigen wants the shame to stop, not just for herself but for all the other moms who feel it. (And we agree.)

"Hearing that nine out of 10 moms don't feel like they're doing a good enough job is terrible," she said. "We're all so worried that we're not doing all that we can, when we really are."

The inspiration for Teigen talking publicly about mom-shame may be in part because of her participation in Pampers' "Share the Love" campaign. But even though Teigen's discussion coincides with this campaign, the message remains equally important. Advertising can be a powerful tool for shifting the way society thinks about what's "normal" and we would much rather see companies speaking out against mom-shame than inducing it to sell more stuff.

Calling out mom-shame in our culture is worth doing in our lives, our communities and yes, our diaper commercials. Thank you Chrissy (and thank you, Pampers).

News

Dear fellow mama,

I was thinking about the past the other day. About the time I had three small boys—a newborn, his 2-year-old brother and his 5-year-old brother.

How I was always drowning.

How I could never catch my breath between the constant requests.

How I always felt guilty no matter how hard I tried.

How hard it was—the constant exhaustion, struggling to keep my home any kind of clean or tidy, how I struggled to feed my kids nutritious meals, to bathe them and clean them and keep them warmly dressed in clean clothing, to love them well or enough or well enough.

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Those years were some of the toughest years I have ever encountered.

But mama, I am here to tell you that it doesn't last forever. Slowly, incrementally, without you even noticing, it gets easier. First, one child is toilet trained, then the bigger one can tie his own shoelaces, then finally they are all sleeping through the night.

It's hard to imagine; I really really get it.

It is going to get easier. I swear it. I'm not saying that there won't be new parenting challenges, that it won't be the hardest thing you have ever done in your life. It will be. But it will get easier.

These days, all of my kids get the bus to school and back. Most of them dress themselves. They can all eat independently and use the toilet. Sometimes they play with each other for hours leaving me time to do whatever I need to do that day.

I sleep through the night. I am not constantly in a haze of exhaustion. I am not overwhelmed by three tiny little people needing me to help them with their basic needs, all at the same time.

I can drink a hot cup of coffee. I do not wish with every fiber of my being that I was an octopus, able to help each tiny person at the same time.

I am not tugged in opposite directions. I don't have to disappoint my 3-year-old who desperately wants to play with me while I am helping his first grade bother with his first grade reading homework.

And one day, you will be here too.

It's going to get easier. I promise. And while it may not happen today or even next week or even next month, it will happen. And you will look around in wonder at the magnificent people you helped to create and nurture and sustain.

Until then, you are stronger and more resilient than you can even imagine.

You've got this. Today and always.

Love,

A fellow mama

Life
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