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5 Key Relationships in Your Support System That You Have Little Control Over & How to Engage

Some of the people who have the greatest influence on your children are not necessarily people you have selected.  This, however, does not mean that you cannot engage with them to ensure their relationship with your daughter is safe and productive.  Read on for some tips on how to work with five types of people with whom your daughter might spend a lot of time. 

The Step-Parents

If your family unit includes a step-parent, it’s very important that you foster a good relationship between him/her and your child, regardless of the circumstances. While you do not get to choose this person, you can choose what type of relationship you will have with him/her, which will directly impact your child. Because this step-parent will likely be a key player in your village, it is necessary to ensure that it is a positive relationship for your child’s sake. Open communication is essential for developing a shared philosophy on things you deem as foundational for child rearing, e.g. their approaches to discipline, how they handle conflict management strategies, etc. It’s a good idea to discuss expectations and boundaries and how you will work collectively to ensure your child’s healthy well-being.  Do not underestimate the effect on a child when parents, exes, and step-parents do not get along. 

The Second Mom

The role of the “second mom” will most likely be filled by your closest friends who have been around to see your child grow from a little infant to a little lady. These kinds of relationships are important and necessary for you to facilitate; give them an opportunity to blossom with good boundaries in place. Close relationships with trusted women can prove to be especially important during those tense teenage years, as they’ll provide an outlet for your child in instances where she may need adult guidance but does not feel comfortable coming to you.  Do not be offended if you find your daughter turning to her instead of you.  It is very common for teenagers to go through a season where talking to anyone other than mom or dad seems like a better option.  This will pass, but in the meantime, be grateful for a “second mom” you can trust to speak truth to your daughter. 

Your Child’s Teachers

Your child’s classroom teacher is very influential in the development of your child.  More than likely, you can safely trust that the teacher’s intentions for your daughter are the same as yours – that she will thrive and grow academically and socially throughout the school year.  Partner with her teacher in this effort by getting to know him/her and by initiating communication when you have questions or concerns.   

In order for you to get the best out of your relationship with your child’s teachers and instructors, you truly have to engage. Get to know every single teacher that your child has. Keep an open line of communication. Talk to them regularly, arrange opportunities for them to give you feedback if the teacher hasn’t, and make them feel comfortable approaching you with concerns.

Be mindful of your attitude when receiving feedback on your child. If you put up a defensive front or often assume your child is right, her teacher might start to communicate with you less frequently. This does not help you or your child. Remember that your child’s teacher is a trained professional who has possibly worked with hundreds of children throughout his/her career.  If you happen to be working with a young teacher, keep in mind that standards and evaluations are put in place to ensure all students are receiving an equal education.  If your child’s teacher has a concern, it is probably valid.  Ensure you have a good understanding of the issue, and do your best to be proactive in working through it. Embrace the role of the teachers and instructors in supporting your efforts to help your child succeed.  This applies, as well, to the coaches and instructors your daughter has outside of school. 

The Parents of your Child’s Friends

Little is more exciting for your child than getting an invite to a friend’s house.  You are not alone if you feel some trepidation as her circle starts to expand.  Her desire to spend more time with friends, whether in your home or elsewhere, will increase as she ages.  Make it a point to get to know her friends and their parents before allowing her to spend an abundance of time with people outside your circle.  

Do her friends’ parents define respect and appropriateness the same or at least similarly as you?  If your child is old enough to understand, don’t hesitate to ask her to reflect on whether her friends’ families have values similar to yours.

You may not be able to choose her friends, but you can control how much time she spends with them.  They are people who will entertain, inspire, motivate and demotivate your child. As such, it’s important for you to understand what type of homes they come from and what their backgrounds and morals are like.  Do her friends’ parents define respect and appropriateness the same or at least similarly as you?  If your child is old enough to understand, don’t hesitate to ask her to reflect on whether her friends’ families have values similar to yours.  And don’t hesitate to actually ask other parents questions about their beliefs as you get to know them. 

If they do share similar values, her friends’ parents can become an excellent asset to your daughter’s village.  Who knows, those parents just might end up becoming some of your closest friends, as well, as you watch your daughters do life together. 

Your Child’s Mentors

Mentor relationships are often based on connections over shared interests.

Mentor relationships are often based on connections over shared interests. Most of the time, you can have some choice in whom these mentors are, but sometimes your daughter might connect with someone in a way you are unaware.  Either way, if your child spends alone time with her mentor, make sure you know the mentor well and have an agreement about appropriate boundaries and intentions for the mentorship.  

It is important that you stay aware of mentoring relationships and that you make sure that they are healthy for your child and that your child is using them in the right ways. You also want to make sure that the adult involved has good intentions.

A Word about Safety

Trust your instincts about people and their motives; follow up on your gut feelings if something seems off, and make sure that you are present whenever your child is having a meeting with these adults, especially if it’s in an unfamiliar environment or if the relationship is new and still budding.

With every single person in your village, whether they’re family or not, you want to always make sure that your child’s safety is of the utmost priority. Trust your instincts about people and their motives; follow up on your gut feelings if something seems off, and make sure that you are present whenever your child is having a meeting with these adults, especially if it’s in an unfamiliar environment or if the relationship is new and still budding.

Lastly, there’s no doubt you need a village to support your child; in fact, you should embrace that support. However, for your child’s sake, be the mayor of the village, and make sure that you are actively engaging in every important relationship in her life.

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