Overcoming Parental Guilt About School
Sometimes it's hard for them to play an active role in their child's education
A lot of parents get it. They realize that the children of moms and dads who regularly communicate with teachers, who are visible at school functions, and regularly promote learning at home are better students. That means that these students earn higher grades, their school attendance is more consistent, behavioral concerns are decreased, and the list of other positive outcomes continues.
Despite this knowledge, the reality is that sometimes it’s just hard for parents to remain involved in their child’s education both at home and at school. Some parents are unable to do it for many different and very personal reasons. Sadly, there is a lot of parental guilt associated with this.
This article explores this reality and offers suggestions to educators so that home and school partnerships will ultimately grow through their leadership.
Here’s the Truth
Most parents understand how critical it is to support their child’s learning. Unfortunately, many are consumed with embarrassment because they are regularly confronted with daily challenges and stressors that prevents their school related involvement. Whether health or work-related, economic, relational, environmental, or concerns about personal resources like the management of time, their daily struggles have been palpable. Efforts to survive one day at a time and find moments of peace have overshadowed the capacity of many moms and dads to remain actively engaged in their child’s overall educational program at school and at home. Despite the regret that they feel, there are many other reasons why their child’s school experience fails to remain a high priority in their life.
1. Some parents had negative school experiences when they were enrolled in school and avoid participating in their child’s learning because of this. Sadly, they distance themselves from their child’s educational experience. Educators, then, are forced to assume the full responsibility for student learning without the support of these parents.
2. Several parents are forced to work multiple jobs to provide basic necessities for their families. There is no time for them to build positive relationships with their child’s teachers. This also makes it impossible to for them to help with homework, attend school related events, and participate in much more.
3. Parents with multiple children may have a difficult time keeping up with the demands associated with their child’s education. Things like checking daily planners, responding to messages from school, signing forms, and keeping up with parent-teacher conferences become insurmountable tasks for them.
4. Some parents are intimidated by their child’s educational program for varied reasons. This impacts their capacity to respond to and initiate communications with teachers, administrators, and other school personnel. These parents are more apt to assume a posture of invisibility because they lack the confidence to partner with their child’s educators. Unfortunately, some educators are forced to equate this with parental indifference.
5. Challenging life circumstances result in many parents being preoccupied with making it yet another day. Concerns about paying for utilities and other bills, putting gasoline in their vehicle, keeping a roof over their families head to avoid becoming homeless, and keeping food on the table consume the day-to-day existence of many moms and dads. Among these daily challenges includes providing adequate behavior, physical, and mental health care for the entire family. Trauma also contributes to family vulnerability. For these parents, being involved in their child’s school program and being an active member of the educational team either takes a secondary or tertiary role or is nonexistent.
6. Cultural barriers between parents and educators result in relational obstacles that include poor communication and misunderstanding. Positive home and school relations fail to develop and thrive due to the lack of educator cultural competence.
Many parents have always struggled with these issues for decades. They did so in silence. However, the pandemic exposed and magnified a lot of these realities.
Because of school closures, educational disruptions, and virtual as well as hybrid learning, the corona virus era has caused parents to boldly to speak up about the relationship of their struggles with their child’s education. Because most parents with school-aged children have been confronted with these challenges, more people entered into conversations about the resulting family problems to raise awareness of their concerns. Some of these widespread issues include the following:
1. Since many parents have been forced to work from home, it has become increasing difficult for them to supervise their child’s online instructional program.
2. A lot of parents have expressed concerns about the volume of communications that have come from the school. With all of their added responsibilities at home, they have found it extremely difficult to keep up with and respond to the messages they received.
3. Economic adversity rained upon many families in the form of decreased work hours, job loss, business closures, and unemployment. As a result, more moms and dads relied upon the free meals schools provided onsite and within the community.
4. Many students were adversely impacted by virtual learning. Mental health issues increased within many families because of this.
5. As corona virus cases surged, many families with students were impacted. Parents have been powerless to help their children overcome all the trauma associated with the pandemic. Consumed by sorrow, fear, and other unspeakable emotions, many learners fell behind in their school work.
6. A high number of parents felt powerless to help support their child’s learning at home. They also maintained the belief that their children failed to thrive academically and socially from their online and hybrid learning experience. This was partially because many have believed that teachers are primarily responsible for ensuring their child’s educational success.
These pandemic-related circumstances have filled these impacted parents with shame, regret, and remorse.
As a family engagement influencer, I promote the belief that educators must take the lead in building authentic relationships with parents. In doing so, school leaders, teachers, and non-teaching professionals must acknowledge that parents experience many different types of obstacles that interfere with their ability to participate in their child’s education.
The following suggestions will not only increase the level of family engagement within schools but remove the guilt that overshadows impacted parents.
1. Educators must help parents understand what it means to be an educational partners by promoting a mutual team spirit. They must model the characteristics of a mutual partnership by displaying indicators that include trust, respect, and acceptance. The most profound way that this can be accomplished is by establishing systemic parent training programs within schools that teach them what it means to be an engaged parent.
2. The school must function as an extension of the family. This demonstrates how deeply connected the school must remain with the families they serve.
3. School personnel including teachers must understand all of the challenges that confront parents and what they go through each day. They must respond to these challenges in a supportive manner. For example, public schools utilize the Multi-Tiered System of Support (MTSS) to outline various types of interventions that support the differentiated needs of students. Because student needs often reflect family needs, this support system may be used to help families going through difficulties as well.
4. Educators must become culturally competent. They must embrace the differences of their families and avoid believing that diversity is a deficit. This must manifest during all interactions with parents.
5. School personnel must increase their capacity to genuinely care about the parents they serve. This opens the door to the natural development of compassion and empathy.
6. Efforts must be made to build authentic relationships with parents. One powerful strategy is to utilizing the use of the home visit. I have exclusively developed a home visit technique called the BFF (Bonding Face to Face) Visit. The means that teachers and other educators meet parents where they are to connect with them. Whether they go to the home or meet in a mutual location like a community coffee shop, they meet and discuss school related matters and offer support to parents. While educators must exercise caution to remain safe during the pandemic, a healthy alternative is to conduct virtual BFF Visits.
All of these strategies sets the stage for educators to understand that the obstacles that prevent parents from being active participants in their child’s education can be overcome in various ways. Most significantly, these strategies also alleviate parental guilt.
The Final Thoughts
This article sheds light on an overlooked educational issue.
Several parents understand that their children reap positive benefits related to their overall school performance when they are actively involved in their learning experience. However, some moms and dads are unable to participate in the educational programs of their children for a lot of different reasons. Sadly, these parents experience a lot of guilt because of this.
Several suggestions are provided in this story for educators to use so that they can take the lead in positioning parents as their partners and members of their child’s team.
Did you find this article supportive of the need to understand parents at a deeper level as it relates to their involvement at school? And was your heart filled with empathy for struggling parents when you read this story? If so, consider sharing it on your social media platforms. Also, please consider adding a tip to help fund my work to increase family engagement in education.
I am also a content creator on YouTube. Be sure to visit my "Ignite Family Engagement" channel to view my videos related to the role of parents in education. Here is the link:
This story was originally published on Medium.com in ILLUMINATION-Curated.
As a mom, former family and consumer sciences teacher, and school administrator, I write about parenting, family, and education topics. Visit www.Drdeborahmvereen.com to view my work as a family engagement influencer & my YouTube channel!