Helping Your Child Get into the School Spirit

Foster a sense of community among students.
—Alfie Kohn, American education expert

We want our kids to enjoy going to school (or child care). We want them to learn, to find friends, and to be excited about what happens at school. One of the best ways to foster a deep attachment to school is to help your child get into the school spirit. Here’s how.

Tips for . . .

  • all parents
    • First find out what your child thinks about school. Some don’t feel comfortable with their school, while others get upset about certain aspects of it. Learn more about these issues. See what you can address. Help your child feel more at home at school before you encourage “school spirit.”
    • Every school and child care center has a spirit to it, and teachers and students who enjoy being there create that spirit. Find out what your child enjoys about school. Even if it’s only lunch and recess, emphasize that. Lunch and recess are important social times, and having friends at school makes it more inviting to attend.
    • Talk about what you admire about your child’s school or child care center. For example, point out the caring, interesting teachers. Or the first-class orchestra. Or the top-notch swimming team, the resourceful media center, the rich diversity of the student body, or the many after-school activities offered. Sometimes your child may take these aspects of school for granted. Help your kids notice what makes their school unique.
    • Attend school events. Cheer on school teams. Admire the art made by the students that the school displays. Go to concerts and performances. Attend these school events with your child—or go to see your child in action.
    • Purchase school attire and other items. If your school doesn’t offer these items, consider checking out the School Spirit Store.
    • Find out if your child’s school has certain school colors and a mascot. Young children often get excited about the school mascot (particularly if it’s an animal), and you can all wear school colors to show your school spirit.
    • parents with children ages birth to 5
    • Child care centers and preschools often offer periodic parent and family activities. Attend these as often as possible. Your child (and you) are more likely to bond to a child care center or preschool if you know other adults and children there.
    • If your child care center or preschool offers T-shirts for sale (or other items), buy them if you can. Children often are proud to wear T-shirts from their school, and they can be conversation starters for other people who see your child wearing them.
    • Consider getting involved in a child care center or preschool parent board (or if your center doesn’t have one, see if you can start it). These boards often generate excitement by creating projects that help the school, such as building a playground (or buying new equipment for one) or recruiting elderly people to come in a read aloud picture books to the children (or rock the babies). Check out School Spirit Ideas if your school is looking for creative ideas.
    • parents with children ages 6 to 9
    • Take a photo of your child in front of his or her school. Also consider taking a picture of your child with his or her teacher. Make an extra copy and have your child hang these photos in his or her room.
    • If your child’s school has a playground, go there on the weekends (and in the summer) so that your child can play. This also helps your child get more into the school spirit and feel more home at school.
    • Some schools have T-shirts, pencils, folders, or notebooks with their school name on them. Make a big deal of these items. Treat them with care, and encourage your child to use them often.
    • parents with children ages 10 to 15
    • At this age, kids start to become more aware of the high school colors. If you can afford them, invest in school shirts that your kids are excited to wear (hooded sweatshirts are often popular, as are pajama bottoms in school colors). Another idea is to buy shoes laces in school colors, which you can often find at arts and crafts stores or through the school, or if you know someone who enjoys knitting or crocheting, ask him or her to make a school scarf for your child in school colors.
    • Continue to attend talent shows, concerts, games, and other school events, even if your child doesn’t want you to come. You can be in the background and not make a big deal, but kids do notice your support and your presence.
    • Encourage your child to participate in before- or after-school activities. Sometimes these are not well publicized, so check with your school office for opportunities.
    • parents with children ages 16 to 18
    • School events often cost money, so consider creating a budget for your teen to attend theater performances, varsity games, and concerts. Although they typically aren’t too expensive, your teen most likely won’t attend them if they’re expected to pay. But many are happy to attend (and go with their friends) if you pay. If your teen enjoys a particular sport, such as varsity soccer or varsity football, find out if there is a season pass, which is often cheaper that paying by the game.
    • Learn your school’s fight song. When you attend school events, sing along!
    • Although school yearbooks, letter jackets, school dances, sweatshirts, and school rings can get expensive, they’re also important symbols that show teenagers’ pride in their school. Again, you don’t have to spend lots of money, but at least consider investing in the annual yearbook—or figuring out inexpensive ways for them to go to a dance. Or go to the arts and crafts store and buy inexpensive, plain T-shirts in the colors of your school.
    • Subscribe to the school newspaper and/or the community newspaper and keep on top of the school news—or visit your local library and check out the latest issue for free. Then initiate conversations with your teenagers about what’s going on at school. They’re more likely to talk if you ask specific questions about specific topics, rather than asking the general, overused question, “How’s school?”
  • Celebrate the times when your teen’s school is doing well, such as during sports championships, state music festivals, or even when your kids just have fun, such as at the homecoming dance or prom. You don’t have to go overboard, but teens notice when you’re proud of their school.

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