Appreciating Our Child’s Influencers – Moms, Dads, Grandparents, Teachers, Coaches

What would our family life be like without teachers, coaches, and loving relatives? Whether we refer to other caring adults in our child’s life as our village or not, he or she has a community of adults who act as influencers. These individuals are either unpaid or underpaid for the critical roles they play in supporting our child’s development. Their motivation to support your child comes from the heart. They realize they are in a position to care for and nurture your son or daughter and accept the many challenges that go along with a young person’s learning.

We know that children learn social and emotional skills best through modeling. So those individuals – whether neighbors, friends, classroom teachers, soccer coaches, ministers, babysitters or music directors – all serve as teachers in a very real sense.

“How do I respond when someone shouts mean words to me?” “What should I do when I see someone hurt and in need of immediate assistance?” “How do I react when I witness a friend being bullied?” These are all important social questions our children are trying to answer. And as they watch their Moms and teachers and coaches react in similar situations, they observe and mimic what those adults do. A single parent cannot and does not raise a child alone. Recognizing who those influencers are and appreciating their support can build trust among the team who are contributing to the raising of your child.

As Moms and Dads, we are in a privileged position to have the chance to select other caring adults in our child’s life but frequently those adults just come with a package whether it’s in school or in out-of-school programs. And we have to coordinate with them and trust them as partners. In essence, they act as mentors.

A mentor is simply an older, more experienced person offering caring support in the interest of a young person’s development. And research shows that a child with a mentor has greater engagement in learning and commitment to school and is more likely to attend college. Mentors can contribute to a positive self-image, assist with emotional adjustments and life transitions and add to a child’s psychological well-being. So the contribution to your family of other caring adults is significant.

You might consider, who has taken on the role of mentor in my child’s life?

And what are the ways in which I can show my appreciation?

The “gifts” that tend to be keepers and stowed away in our treasure drawer are those that are given with love and are often, home-made. With Teacher Appreciation Week this week and Mother’s Day upcoming, I offer five simple ideas for appreciating those very important persons.

1. Create a note from the heart.

If your child is anything like mine, when I announce it’s time to write thank you notes or letters, a big groan followed by “Mooooom” (add the tonal swing from high to low) ensues. But you may want to simply capture how your child feels about his teacher, for example. Write this simple prompt: “My teacher is great because…” and then do a brainstorm. “What are all of the things you like about your teacher?” you might ask. Write and draw together and see how quickly you can come up with your homemade letter that your teacher will treasure.

2. Design a banner for all to see.

E’s second-grade teacher in front of her banner. Each student wrote what they loved about her on a heart.

Whether it’s a banner for a classroom door, a locker gym door or over a dining room table, it can serve as a big statement of appreciation for the caring mentor you are recognizing. An added bonus is that a whole class or team can contribute words and pictures to make the sentiment extra special. And the fact that you’ll place it on display for all to see allows the mentor to be recognized by the whole community.

3. Record an interview.

Your child will only be this age once. Her sweet young voice will change. And certainly, her appearance will change over time. You can simply record an audio interview with your daughter and ask questions like, “When did Grandma make you laugh?” “Do you remember the most fun time you had at her house?” Or record it on video and show gifts she’s given your daughter that have become beloved like a stuffed friend or a favorite book.

I’ve also gone to the school playground and interviewed classmates about their teacher. Of course, this will require permission from parents. But you could simply ask parents at drop off or pick up time whether it would be okay to get their child’s participation. A video of students can be a precious keepsake for any teacher.

4. Make a keepsake box for sentimental treasures.

Grab a sturdy shoebox. Now brainstorm a list of your teacher’s favorite things whether its school subjects, animals, or goodies. Draw pictures and create a collage all over the box. When all pictures are glued on, either paint Modge Podge over the pictures to seal them or use large clear packing tape. Go one step further and have classmates place their notes inside!

5. Work with your child to draw a portrait of your child and her mentor.

Even a simple drawing of your child and her mentor can be a meaningful gift for someone. Purchase a matte or frame to make it extra special.

I am grateful for designated opportunities like Teacher Appreciation Week to share how grateful I am to my son’s influencers. But I also recognize that those little, simple daily appreciations throughout the year can go a long way toward strengthening relationships and reinforcing our gratitude. So Mother’s Day is also a reminder to me to notice and mention those extra ways that people show care to my son that make such a difference in our family’s life.

Happy Teacher Appreciation Week!

Happy Mother’s Day!

And to all those who have signed up to follow Confident Parents, Confident Kids within the last few weeks, I extend a big welcome to a community of caring adults!

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