Your child's struggles at school are not a reflection of your parenting.
I know today was another rough one. Maybe you got that call you've been dreading from the preschool, the one where the teacher says, in a polite, professional tone that's it's time to come in for another discussion.
Or maybe you got a note home—the kind that described your child's behavior neutrally, but that you could tell was written by frustrated hands.
Or maybe there was no note or call, maybe it was the sight of your little one standing off to the side, kicking the mulch while the other kids twirled and played after drop-off. Or the side eye from another parent as your child melted down during pick-up.
Or maybe, it was the lack of something that made today hard. The lack of a smile from the teacher, telling you how proud you should be of your baby. The lack of a gold star in the corner of your little one's folder. The lack of a friend who understands what it's like to have a child who's struggling in school.
Whatever the reason may be, today was tough. And you deserve a big bowl of ice cream, a good book and a hot bath. You deserve to be told, and to believe, that even though your child is struggling in school, you are an amazing parent.
In the early months of your child's life, you looked at them with adoration and love. You wondered what those little hands would grow to enjoy doing and what would make those tiny lips curve into a smile.
You spent a lot of time soaking in their newborn scent, sure, but you also spent a lot of time daydreaming about who they might become as they grew. You wondered if they would like to read or like to dance or be interested in bugs or dinosaurs or outer space.
As they grew, you watched them begin to explore the world: to take tentative steps and utter sweet first words. All the time you were filled with wonder at who they were becoming. As they began to get closer to finger-paints than they were to swaddles, you probably started to think about preschool and make a plan for how and when they would begin their formal learning journey.
When you thought about them with a tiny backpack and lunchbox, you were happy with the thought of them heading off somewhere warm and welcoming each day—excited for them to learn and play and make friends. You certainly didn't think about notes home or quiet calls or missing birthday party invitations.
On the first day of school you snapped their picture and sent them off, a tear in your eye and pride beating through your chest—it was almost unbelievable. Your child, who was once a newborn, wet and warm in your arms, was now in school.
And then, maybe harder times started for you. Maybe it started on the first day of school with separation anxiety from you, or perhaps it was a few months in when they were consistently having a difficult time with transitions.
Whatever your experience was, and I'm sure you can remember the first time you felt a pit in your stomach about school, something was off and you weren't the only one to notice.
Oh mama, I know how hard it is when something's not right with your little one. I know there have been tears shed and arguments with your partner and lots and lots of up-too-late reading and researching.
When you have a child that's struggling in school you'll get lots of advice. People will tell you to change their diet, to be stricter, to let them play more, to take away screens, to add more screens, to adjust your parenting style or to put them to bed earlier—frankly, there's no shortage of tips and tidbits.
What I found a shortage of, though, was support.
I know you know your kiddo and you're doing everything in your power to help them excel. I don't have any big advice on what to do with your individual child (I'll leave that to the professionals), but what I do have for you, and it's really important, is a list of things you need to hear. Things that you might not see but that, I promise, are very true.
1. Your child’s struggles at school are not a reflection of your parenting.
Say it with me now, "My child's struggles at school are not a reflection of my parenting." They're not—plain and simple. Despite how other people may make you feel, you are a fantastic parent and you're doing a great job.
2. Your child is not defined by their struggles at school.
I know how painful it is to have the "challenging kid." Parent-teacher conferences are hard and playground friendships are harder but, the hardest thing of all is often realizing that others don't see all the magnificence contained in your child's little body. They struggle, yes, but they are also a wonderful, dynamic child full of love and creativity and spark.
Don't let the fact that others can't see your child's sparkle dull it in your own eyes.
3. You are a powerful advocate.
I know that before your child started school you probably envisioned your presence there as something fun: maybe you'd serve cupcakes at the fall party or pass out tickets at the spring carnival. Now though, you know the school phone number by heart and spend most of the time you're there working, and sometimes fighting, to get your child what they need.
Keep at it mama; demand every single thing your child needs to thrive. And take comfort in knowing that the fight is worth it.
4. You’re doing a great job.
There's no "right way" to help a child succeed at school. While the world is full of people willing to give advice (or to let you know when you're doing something they don't agree with) the truth is that you know your child best. Parenting is hard. But in the end, if everything you do is out of love, you're doing something right.
So mama, take some time today to think about your child—to reflect on how wonderful and caring they are.
And then take some time to think about yourself—to reflect on how magnificent and loving you are. I know this is hard. At times—really, really hard. But you're doing a great job. I promise.