Wednesday, February 28, 2024

Wheel of Parenting

 Last week we had our parent conferences. I actually really enjoy conference time and I think it's because of how we've structured it over the years. Before conferences happen, I send home a narrative summary of my observations of each child. It takes me a chunk of life to write these reports, but they serve as a touchstone for both me and parents as to where their children are in their development. The beauty of sending that document home is that it frees me from having to spend most of our precious time together during conferences updating parents on what's happening at school. That means we have more time to talk about other important things, like what's going on at home, what struggles the child is having, what struggles the parents are having, how to help support talents, interests, navigate difficulties. I find this to be very valuable for all of us, but especially for the child who is the ultimate recipient of the fruits of the conference. 

Some years back I was having lunch with a friend who happens to also be a nutritionist and life coach who shared a resource with me called Wheel of Life. This tool is a brief assessment of your work and life balance. I have used it myself many times since, and for this conference season I decided to adapt it to parenting. 

Here is the "Wheel of Life":

And here is the "Wheel of Parenting" that I came up with:


The categories for each of the aspects are:  Partnership (working together with your partner), Self Care (rest, renewal, recharging, taking care of yourself), Connection with your child (trust, sharing, listening, openness), Routine and Structure (predictability and consistency), Limit Setting (respectful communication, making agreements, consequences, being "ok" with saying no), Support Network (people you can count on to help you when needed), Fun, Learning (creativity, skills, language, literacy). And at the bottom of the chart, some follow up questions to self reflect what we are modeling in terms of our emotions, habits, and prioritizing what is important. 

We started our conference by having parents fill out the wheel and then we reflected on how each parent individually assessed themselves. Just by looking at the chart we could tell where some attention might be needed. Knowing these parent's children quite well, it was also immediately clear where the child might be struggling due to what struggles parents were having in the different areas. We reflected together, gently, without judgement asking more questions and not necessarily trying to solve anything but to bring awareness to the complexity of parenting. 

I found the exercise to be effective and revealing. After the first few sessions, I noticing the parallels between how parents assessed themselves on self care and their support network and partnerships. There was also a correlation between how much fun parents were having with their children and their sense of connection. Establishing routines and structures also played a role in self care. The question of how well parents are role modeling a healthy relationship with emotions was a topic that could have lasted the whole conference and which I think is one of the most interesting areas of conversation with parents at this stage. 

I think I will use this wheel again once in a while during conferences. I found it to be a helpful tool for our second, or third conference in the year. 

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