As parents, we often have fond memories of specific holidays that we celebrated with our families, and we may wish to continue those traditions with our own children. It may therefore come as a surprise to discover that our child's school or classroom is not celebrating a popular holiday. What can parents do to help mark a special holiday or occasion while still remaining respectful of the school or teacher's policies? Here are some ideas to consider:
- Don't assume that your child's school is going to celebrate a particular holiday, or celebrate in a particular way. Ask the school or teacher beforehand. In this way, you won't build up expectations in yourself or your child and later be disappointed. Many schools have specific policies about holiday celebrations, sometimes regulated by law.
- If a specific holiday is important to you, discuss possibilities with your child's teacher. Good schools welcome parent participation. Talk to the teacher about what you could do as a parent to mark a special occasion with the class. For example, one parent made Chinese dumplings with her child's class to celebrate Chinese New Year. Be flexible. If the teacher has concerns about a particular idea, discuss other options. Most teachers respond well to interested parents who approach them in a spirit of cooperation rather than challenging their decisions.
- Try to remain objective. This is not easy for any of us. Ask yourself if a particular activity or celebration is more important for you or your child. If your child feels that he or she is missing out on something, bring this up with the teacher and search for alternatives. For example, many schools who don't celebrate Halloween do plan fun fall festivals. If you can't reach a compromise, then plan something special to do with your child and perhaps a few friends at home.
- Remember that some traditions are best maintained in the home. The special flavor of a holiday, or even the sacredness of some holidays, can quickly become diluted when they are introduced into the school curriculum. This can be particularly problematic when teachers try to adopt holidays from cultures that are not their own. They may inadvertently plan activities that are actually disrespectful or inappropriate. This is why it is important for parents to discuss cultural celebrations with their child's school or teacher.
- Consider special things that you can do with your child to commemorate a holiday. For example, you might decide to make a scrapbook with your child with photos and memorabilia from a special holiday or event. Ask your child to describe what he or she remembers and add this to the scrapbook. Your child might wish to share this special scrapbook with his or her class.