Newcomer parents: don’t fear getting involved at your children’s school

The idea of getting involved in your children’s school can seem daunting for many immigrant parents.  However, there is overwhelming evidence that there are many benefits when parents take a more active role in their children’s education.

Barriers and benefits
For those who are new to Canada, however, the concept of school involvement might seem like a foreign concept.   Be it cultural differences, inability to communicate in English, unfamiliarity with the Canadian school system or negative past experiences, many newcomers feel uncomfortable with approaching teachers and school staff.
Many also worry that they might not be welcomed by the school or may face negativity and criticism. Further, many families say that they are just too busy or have conflicting work schedules to help out with children’s schooling.
Studies have shown that parents have the greatest and most influential role in their children’s success. Parents know their children best and have their best interest in mind, so they are their best advocate and supporter. Parental involvement reduces student absenteeism, improves academic achievement and encourages them to make better life choices.

Ways to participate in your kids’ school
Taking an active role in your children’s schooling does not necessarily require much time, effort or money. Start small and be creative about how to get involved in ways that work for your availability and comfort level. Start at home, by regularly helping your child with their homework and monitoring their progress. But understand that report cards are not the only measure of children’s achievement. Find out about their overall school experience, including their friends, classmates and teachers. Most importantly, keep an open line of communication between yourself, your kids and their teachers, be it in the form of in-person communication, written notes or emails.   At school, find ways to be an active parent in school.  Attend school meetings and events, and consider volunteering at the school. Some possibilities include joining the parent advisory council, helping organize school events or fundraising, or volunteering for hot lunch day or field trips. Keep in mind that there are settlement or multicultural workers and translators in school to support immigrant families, so don’t hesitate to reach out to them when you need.
Cheryl Song is Canadian Immigrant’s “Parenting” columnist.

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