Parenting for Faith – Parents as Teachers and Teachers as Parents
Becky Sedgwick is part of the team at Parenting for Faith. Not only was her mum her teacher, but she spent ten years as the lady in the office at her daughter’s primary school.
I was seven years old, and today mum was the supply teacher in my class. It felt a bit odd, but she’d primed me when the phone call came through that morning and I knew that today, all day, she was ‘Mrs Sedgwick’ and I was just one of the class. But then came PE. We were excitedly running around the playground, passing the ball. Mum caught it, and I realised I was in the perfect place to get the pass. “Mum!” I shrieked, arms waving in anticipation. She looked straight at me and passed to another child.
Walking home after school, deflated, I asked her. ‘Mum, why didn’t you pass me the ball?’ She looked at me. ‘Because you forgot to call me Mrs Sedgwick.’
For so many of us parents and carers, God calls us to minister in our child’s school. Sometimes in a professional capacity, sometimes as a volunteer. And that can feel tricky! Having to shush your child, or not being able to offer them a hug as you pass in the corridor, or feeling their resentment seething from them as you are late leaving school – again – can be stressful. So how can we balance being both parent and teacher / dinner lady / lady in the office or whatever role we hold?
Rachel Turner, The Bible Reading Fellowship’s Parenting for Faith Pioneer, has written extensively about the challenge of being both parent and leader in her book ‘Parenting as a Church Leader’. She describes it as wearing two hats: your parent hat and your leader hat. My mum that day expected me to see her teacher hat, while all I saw in the heat of the moment was her mum hat. But the truth is we are never just one or the other. The skill we need is knowing how to wear both hats well and in a way that our children understand that no matter what we are doing, they are always connected to us and prioritised by us.
You know your children best and will be able to work out what they need: knowing your child’s love languages may be an excellent guide. But here are some ideas that may be helpful.
Connect well before school
The morning rush is a thing! But finding ways to put in some connection with your child before you the bell rings sets you both up well for the day. That could be choosing to walk to school rather than drive so you have time for a chat, or making sure you whisper ‘I love you’ as you hug before they go into the playground, or getting up that little bit earlier to make their favourite breakfast. I had teacher friends whose children loved to come in early and help them set up their classroom before school. Those few moments can go a long way towards helping children stay feeling connected to you all day.
Help them hear their yeses
Particularly with young children it can be hard to help them understand why things at school are different. A preschooler may still want to clamber on your knee during circle time, or an older child resent that you can’t go on the school trip like their friends’ mums because you’re in the classroom. The trick is to give them alternatives rather than just saying ‘no’. So you might say: ‘I love cuddling you, but at school you can either sit right next to me or we can touch hands’, or ‘I can’t come on that trip today, but could we take time on Saturday to go somewhere together?’ When you give them choices or invite them into solving the problem, your child isn’t hearing just ‘no’ but rather a way to hear their ‘yes’.
Create ways to connect during the day
Being in school with your child gives you the huge privilege of being able to create connection points during the day. I knew of one admin officer who would occasionally sneak giant strawberries into her daughter’s lunch box as a surprise for her child. You might choose to deliberately walk past your child’s class doing PE and wave, or pop out into the playground at break time to allow them the chance to run over to see you. A quick nod or hand tap as your child’s class files into assembly or, where phones are allowed, a quick text to your teen saying ‘Hey, how was your maths test?’ will reinforce that you are thinking of them.
Check in with your child regularly about how they feel
Children are constantly changing and it’s worth checking in regularly to see how they feel. Asking questions can be a quick and easy way to assess how your child is feeling about your being in school. Questions such as ‘What do you like about me being in school? What do you wish was different? Why?’ will quickly give you insight into your child’s feelings. Questions like ‘If you could change something about how we are connected while we’re at school, what would it be?’ are the first step to adapting things so that you wear both hats well.
Parenting for Faith exists to help parents, carers and everyone with children and teens in their lives disciple them into a lasting and vibrant two-way relationship with God