4 Unique Ways to Advocate for Your Child
I was only 5 when my Kindergarten teachers treated me unfairly because I approached learning differently. I was too young to understand but my mom knew exactly what was going on. Ever since I could remember, my mother has always been an advocate for me and my sister and now, as a mother, I understand the power of advocacy. I’ve discovered four unique ways to be an advocate for your child, regardless of the setting that I want to share with you.
Today, I am a proud mother of a vibrant 2-year-old boy who loves books, enjoys listening to the Black Panther Symphony with me, and loves to work on his toy truck. When I became a mother, I took on the role as a protector, nurturer, and a guide but I didn’t realize that advocacy would also become a key role.
Just last month, we decided to part ways with his preschool because we didn’t believe expectations were high for his development and we knew that he could do more in a different environment. We met with the school, directly shared our concerns, and asked tough questions. Unfortunately, we couldn’t come to a common ground so we had to transition out. Although I was disappointed, I knew that my husband and I advocated for our son and I was proud of our bravery and standing firm in our values.
So, what does it mean to be an advocate in any setting your child is in?
Know your Child
As parents, we know our child and have been given a keen spirit to discern when something isn’t exactly right. We also know what our child is capable of and where they need to grow. For example, since birth, I have kept track of my son’s milestones so when the school shared that my son wasn’t performing, I could vouch that their assessment was off and ask deeper questions regarding why he wasn’t comfortable in the classroom.
Do your research
When a condition or situation pops up for your child, connect with other parents or reputable resources to affirm or provide more insight on your situation. I have several friends with children who are older than my son, so I was able to process my thoughts with them to think through how to approach the conversation with the school. I also had my son’s evening teacher share her assessment which was drastically different from the school’s. This confirmed that there were some red flags.
Elevate your voice
As parents, we have the right to protect our children and advocate for them respectfully. When we work with the school, the doctor’s office, or a sports coach — we have to remember this is a partnership. My son is 2. He can’t share everything with me, so it was important for us to ask questions and elevate our concerns.
Remember, our children have blindspots and need our help in covering them.
At the parent conference, we asked tough questions regarding implicit bias, high/low expectations, and relationships to try to uncover what was going on. We have a right to ask questions so we can make the best decisions for our children.
Call to Action:
What does advocacy look like for your child(ren)? Assess your children’s surroundings at school, the doctor’s office, after school activities, the bus. How is your child doing in those areas? If there is room for improvement, who do you need to talk to respectfully to share the problem and come up with a solution?
Melissa Cooper is an educator and the co-founder of Good Community LLC, a company that helps bridge division by creating dynamic community groups and faith-based apparel. Follow her on Instagram and Facebook.