Raising the Bar: Suffolk County Council looks at the importance of building and maintaining relationships between parents and children

November Empowering Parents

November Empowering Parents - Credit: Archant

Parents have such an important part to play in their children’s education. This monthly Empowering Parents series helps parents to support their youngsters

Build a strong relationship with your child

Build a strong relationship with your child - Credit: Archant

Councillor Lisa Chambers, Cabinet member for education and skills at Suffolk County Council, explains the importance of relationships in communication.

Welcome to the November edition of Empowering Parents.

Due to the amount of detail around this month’s topic, we will be sharing information over two editions. This month will focus on building and maintaining relationships. As a parent, relationships are important in communicating effectively, not only with your own child, but your child’s children’s centre or school.

Next month, we will build on this and discuss relationship issues you may come across as a parent, including e-safety, bulling and friendships.

Communicating with your child can help improve their educational attainment

Communicating with your child can help improve their educational attainment - Credit: Archant

The care, attention and security a child receives from their parents or carers in their early years builds up their self-esteem, enhances their ability to interact with others and enables them to manage new situations or set-backs more effectively. We have covered this in more detail as part of the ‘Creating a positive start’ article.

How a parent talks and listens to their child affects their ability to gather the skills they need to feel ready for school and make the most of it. Whether your child is a toddler or a teenager, you may find our top ten tips on listening skills for parents useful.

We hope that you find Empowering Parents helpful and we really appreciate your feedback. If you would like to get in touch, email Raising the Bar at raisingthebar@suffolk.gov.uk

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Ask the expert

This month, we have asked county parenting co-ordinator Judith Moore to answer some frequently asked questions from parents about your child’s school or children’s centre.

How do I talk to my child’s school or children’s centre about getting additional help for my child?

If you have concerns, get in touch with your child’s class teacher or tutor, or for younger children their key worker, and talk to them about where you think your child might need help. They may suggest things you can do at home to support your child’s learning, where you can find local groups and activities, or what they will do in the classroom, perhaps with the support of the special needs coordinator. If necessary you can discuss a referral for more specialist help. Organisations like SENDIASS (see below) can also support you through this process.

My child’s recently moved schools and I’m not sure if they’re settling in, who should I talk to?

Talk to your child in a relaxed way about what they are doing at school and how things are going. If they don’t tell you much, remember that’s very common in young people and give them time. Think about how your child seems to be enjoying life out of school – for example are they making new friends and talking about things they like doing or keeping up with homework? If your child is at primary school, speak to the class teacher; at secondary school you can get in touch with your child’s tutor or head of year. The school office can help you contact the right person, and will also let you know if you need to make an appointment or can have a chat by phone.

I have been asked to attend a meeting at the school, how can I prepare for this?

If this is a formal meeting, make sure you have all the information you need about what’s going to be discussed and who you will be seeing. It often helps to take a family member or friend with you – you’re more likely to remember what is said and they could make some notes to look at later. SENDIASS (formerly the Suffolk Parent Partnership Service) offers workshops and support to parents who require help with meeting preparation and contact with schools. For further details. visit www.suffolk.gov.uk/sendiass

Ten top tips: Listening skills for parents

Here we have put together five top tips for parents with toddlers and young children and five top tips for those with older children and teenagers:

Toddlers and young children:

Taking the time to talk and listen to your child helps them learn how to speak and listen to others. To strike up a conversation, start talking about things they are interested in and introduce them to new things too.

Spending time listening to your child can make them feel that they, and what they have to say, is important. This in turn builds up their confidence in speaking.

Reading and playing imaginative games with your child can give you great opportunities to listen and use open-ended questions to help them develop their language and ideas. Try phrases such as ‘and what happens next?’ or ‘what do you think he/she felt?’

It’s impossible to make yourself available to your child at every moment – when you can’t respond straight away when they are talking to you, say you will get back to them when you have finished what you are doing – but make sure you follow it through.

When you want your child to listen to something you would like them to do, try to be clear, don’t give them too many complicated instructions and most of all, give them time to process what you have said. As a guide, sometimes counting in your mind to five can be useful.

Older children and teenagers:

Children and young people can be very good at interpreting a parent’s body language and tone. When you are putting your opinion across, try to stop what you are doing and use a calm voice. This is generally a more effective way to communicate with your child.

Respect your child’s wishes when they’re not ready to talk to you about something – this can become more of an issue as they get older and friends become increasingly important to them.

When young people come home angry or upset about something, try to listen and find out what is happening before rushing in with solutions. Clarify this with them before talking to them about what they could do next to make things better. If they are finding it hard to calm down, sometimes it’s better to take a step back and give them a few minutes to reflect rather than let the situation flare up. This also helps young people learn to manage their feelings themselves.

Parents are sometimes best placed to help their child learn and develop problem-solving skills. When your child asks for help, together you can look at the problem, discuss the possible solutions, select one and try it out. You can then take some time to review how it went and if necessary, try plan B.

Sometimes you need to set boundaries around what circumstances call for a lengthy discussion – for example when they want to get into a debate about bedtime or who pushed who, it’s better to deal with it and move on.

Creating a positive start

While we’ve all probably heard the term ‘attention-seeking’ used in a negative way, children are programmed from birth to seek attention from their parents and close relations in order to survive, grow and develop. Therefore it’s important to encourage and reward your child for their positive behaviour from a young age.

Recent research shows that your child’s brain develops faster in the first three years than any time later in life. Affection, play and sharing language stimulate its cells to develop connections and thinking power – literally building the brain.

A positive start at home

When small children get lots of positive attention from adults who are tuned in to their needs, they are more likely to develop a sense of security, empowering them to gain confidence, explore and learn. Talking, singing nursery rhymes or reading to your child helps them learn and develop their own language skills. This is when children start to learn how to communicate, express themselves and understand their feelings.

The increase in their own confidence also helps them interact with others and use their imagination. They can begin to understand instructions adults give them and some of the rules in different situations – all skills which will help them thrive in a learning environment.

A positive start for learning

Parents can also help their child have a positive start when they go to a children’s centre or school by building up their practical skills. This includes helping them to get themselves dressed, go to the toilet and know when to ask for help. It is also important to have a routine for the morning and evenings. This can help your child feel more independent and ensures a smoother life at home for everyone.

If young people understand from an early age that it’s okay to not get things right the first time, they are more likely to feel confident to try new and more difficult challenges inside and outside the classroom.

Building a good relationship with your child’s early years provider or school is essential. This allows you to understand what children are learning and how you can support this at home. Although this can be difficult, if you have had negative experience at school, building this relationship means that you know who to go to with any issues, and that everyone is working together to help your child achieve their best.