The comparison will most likely happen on the first or second day of class. "Are you Sam's brother? He was a great reader!" or, conversely, "You're not Tammy's sister, are you? She was a handful." Chances are good that your child's teacher will mention his experience with an older sibling. Most remarks will be professional, such as asking who the elder child's new teacher is, or commenting on that child's special hobby. Still, younger siblings often can't escape feeling like they're second fiddle.
With a bit of forethought, and good communication, you can build a successful partnership between your younger child and a teacher. You and your older child can even help strengthen your youngster's teacher transition. Here's how:
Acknowledge assets. If you suspect problems, contact the teacher during the first week of school. You are in a position to discuss your child's positives, such as reading, math, or social strengths. Parents and the teacher should acknowledge a child's differences and work together to make it the best year yet.
Wait and see. This approach is likely the best tack when parents have previous experience with a teacher but don't think the match will work for the younger child. Usually, the only problem is calling a younger student by the older student's name.
Tackle comparisons head-on. Discuss with your child how comparisons may be a reality of school life. Then find ways to strengthen a younger child's interests. If an older child thrives in art class and a younger sibling lives for science class, find a way to involve yourself as a science-class volunteer. This will support the younger child's interests and help him gain recognition with peers and the teacher.
Help kids team up. If your older child has a strong rivalry with his or her younger sibling, differences at school can get sticky, especially if the older child has negative feelings toward the teacher. As a parent, you can help your children work together to make the year successful. Maybe the older student can coach the younger one through a project. Or the older student can recount special field trips or events the class participated in, giving the school experience a positive slant.
- Hit the books. Kids with siblings may want to read the Ramona series books by Beverly Cleary. Parents may want to read The Essential Conversation: What Parents and Teachers Can Learn From Each Other by Sara Lawrence-Lightfoot.