My daughter Manessa is attending a new school this year. Her class has a Facebook group where the teachers share pictures and information for us. It’s really great! One of the parents shared an open invitation for all the students in the class to attend her son’s birthday party. Only a few weeks into school means we barely know the students and for sure do not know the parents. Some parents may be hesitant but I jumped at the opportunity! Here’s why:
- Expose her to other people: We come from a very obvious cultural background. We have a strong community that shares the same cultural and religious traditions. Up until this year my daughter was in a school where she was surrounded by children of the same cultural and religious backgrounds. This was great as a starting point for us. This helped us to solidify our identity in her mind and give her basic knowledge of how we do different things. This year she started in a new diverse school and it couldn’t have come at a better time. At her bright age of 4 years old, she has started to ask questions about other people. She is learning that every home is different. People are not all exactly like us and that’s perfectly fine! By accepting this open invitation, I was taking her to celebrate a classmate for who he is. Although this particular birthday was no different than hers would be, she was surrounded by people from different backgrounds, heard different languages and enjoyed every minute of it.
- It is more than just about making new friends: At her age, everyone is her “friend”. This was about taking the time to try and get to know her “friends” better. When we went to pick out the gift, my daughter had to really think about what her classmate might like. I asked her to think about something he may have mentioned he liked, or something she noticed he was really into. She had to consider all the little things she knew about him to pick a gift that would be perfect for HIM, not just a general gift for a 4 year old boy.
- A great way to connect outside of school: Over the past 2 years, there have been classmate’s Manessa has had that she just adored but it never worked out that I would run into their moms or dads at school to make a connection, to exchange a number, or plan a playdate. This was frustrating because she wanted to spend more time with these kids, but I couldn’t figure out how to make that happen. This birthday party was a great chance for that! In fact there was one little girl there that Manessa clicked with at school and was interested in getting together with more. Conveniently, we live very close to each other and she too had been wanting to spend time with Manessa. Perfect! We exchanged numbers and I’m sure very soon another playdate will be underway!
- Friendships out of school improve the classroom environment: Do you remember looking at your class list the first day of school hoping to see your best friend’s name on the list? I do! Why is that? Having friends in the same class help students to feel more comfortable, safe, supported. It allows them to engage more, because they do not feel alone, insecure and scared. They know they will always have a partner for activities. It’s just so much more fun that way! They spend more time together at school than they do with us; they may as well be friends!
- Parents need to connect too: I was really interested to get to know the parents. We may see each other during the morning rush in the hallway but to have a real conversation about more than lunch bags and fieldtrips are rare if they ever happen. I knew that there would be other parents from Manessa’s class there so I was excited to take that chance to get to know them. 4 children from her class attended in total and I had some great conversation with 2 of the families. That’s not bad for a start! Additionally I think it’s important to have contact with some parents from your child’s class as you may need to call on them for any given reason. You may need them to pick something up for you. Or if you’re running late stick around with your child until you arrive. Or perhaps you need notes, or info about events at school.
Would you have taken the invitation?