This page covers:
- Advice on involving your child in the school search process
- Ideas for how to respond to questions from your kid(s)
Since we’re on the subject of reflection and asking questions, we might as well address the fact that your kid will no doubt do the same. So, how do you finesse the whole school searching process with your child looking over your shoulder? Parenting styles aside, our main bit of advice is to adopt a party line around your kids that is positive and optimistic. But you’ll still get questions thrown at you when you least expect them:
“Where am I going to school next year?”
You have two options here – underplay the fact that you are looking around, or come clean while staying positive. For young children it often makes sense to leave them entirely out of the process (unless you are applying to a school that requires a child visit), and just tell them “we aren’t sure yet, but whichever school you go to, you’re going to love it.” If switching schools on an older kid, you can do the same, but expect a bigger blow out if you get what you want and they had no idea it was coming.
If your older child is involved in the process, keep a positive attitude about all the options, and explain the random elements of the lottery or selection process. Knowing that the decision is not personal (even if it is somewhat, in the case of some private schools) can protect your child from the ego blow of failure.
“What do I tell my friends?”
This gets us into the tricky issue of how school searching plays out in your social circle. Your child may have to deal with some of the tension around this issue, and the feeling that he or she is being disloyal to the neighborhood or school community by looking elsewhere. Help your child craft a true but safe answer to this question, such as “My parents feel like they need to check out all the options, and haven’t decided yet,” or “I’m not sure where I am going yet.”
“Don’t I have a say in this, Mom?”
Yes! Well, to a point. Getting some input from your child is important to their feeling visible, but they should know that the final decision rests with you (at least if they are younger than high school age). Some of this depends on your child of course, and how good they are at making rational big-picture decisions.
Definitely solicit some input from your child if s/he has expressed a desire to do so. Have her make a list of things she’d like in a school. Talk about what she liked or didn’t like about past schools. All along, be reassuring that you’ll choose the best possible option for her.
“Do I get to go to school X next year?”
After a visit to a school, your child well may ask this. “Possibly” is a good response that keeps you safe. If your child has set his heart upon a certain school, buffering him from disappointment (and consequently a bad attitude about the default) becomes important. Gently let him in on the impersonal nature of the odds and prepare him for a great year at your default option. Keep the dream alive enough to resuscitate it though, in case you get what you want!