When it’s already hard enough to keep teenagers motivated for school work, IB might make it seem even harder to find ways to support your children. For those parents or guardians who are not quite sure what to do for IB students, this post is for you!
In this article, we will guide you through 5 tips which we as IB graduates feel are the kind of support we needed (or received and are thankful for 😉 ) during the intense two years in the IB. We hope you’ll get a clearer idea about how to build and maintain a healthy support system for your family member.
1. Try to Understand How IB Works
First of all, you might not be able to completely understand what your child is going through because you’re not an IB student in 2022 yourself. But, showing them that you are willing to get involved in their IB life is the first step to building a close relationship with your child. They may say they can handle IB on their own, but it is always comforting to know that someone is there for you when you need help. And you will be able to understand what they need, how they feel, and why they behave the way they do, much more easily by learning about the IB.
IB is complicated and confusing since there are many requirements for each subject and diploma, but you can always ask school counselors and other IB parents for help. Of course, many posts from MakeSensei also break down each IB curriculum and you can check them out here. Additionally, IBO publishes a community blog for IB parents too!
2. Participate in School Events
One of the strengths of IB schools is that they have a lot of school events that involve not only students but also their parents! Try to take advantage of this opportunity to learn about your children, the school, teachers, and other families in the community. Your children might seem embarrassed to have you at school, but it’s normal and they just don’t know how to show appreciation without being embarrassed around their friends and teachers.
For example, Back-to-School Night is a good place to ask teachers about how your children are doing at school and what to expect in the upcoming school year. If you’re not sure you can communicate well with teachers due to language barriers, you can always consult with your children or the school counselors and ask for translators.
Make sure you try to attend events, especially if your children is performing in them! Even if you can’t make it on time, showing up matters. You might also have opportunities to join other festivals at school by doing the reception, bringing food, or participating in a booth. By getting involved in these events, you can connect with other IB parents and school teachers and those connections will be valuable when you face any problems throughout the school year. You can also learn about diversity and different cultures just like your children do every day at school and you might better understand their learning environment.
3. Talk to Other Parents of IB Students
You might feel alone and confused sometimes as an IB parent, especially when you’re living outside your home country. As a parent, you need to encourage your children to do their best at school, socialize, and grow up in a new environment, but you might have no idea how to support them, or it might even be your first time living in a foreign country as well! But don’t worry, you’re not alone. There are a lot of IB parents who are new to IB and the country regardless of their nationality. Those IB parents who look like experts were once in your position too, so don’t hesitate to ask them for advice. If you’re at one of the school events, the chance of meeting unfriendly parents is low since only those who care to spend the time and get to know others will join these events.
Getting to know other IB parents has another side benefit of taking your mind off of your children. Who knows, maybe you’ll find something in common with them or you start a new hobby with them! For example, if you live in a foreign country, you could join a language school or take classes about local culture (e.g. cooking, handicraft, history, dance, etc). This way, you can grow and broaden your perspective at the same time as your children, too!
Even if you’re busy with work or have other engagements, isolating yourself from the school community is usually not a good option. You should at least get to know those parents whose children are close to yours in case of emergency.
4. Give Space and Time
Unfortunately, even with the development of social media, it’s still common for children in adolescence to keep things from their parents. You might be worried about how or what they are doing at school, but they might not want to answer questions at home when they get enough of them in the classroom! They are trying to figure things out on their own terms and they might want to prove that they can handle it on their own.
It takes courage to step back from helping your children, but it’s time for them to make mistakes, learn from them, and grow on their own. What you can do is be patient and remind them that you’re there for them whenever they need help. For example, you could always bring snacks or a cup of coffee to their room when they are studying for exams. They would appreciate your support. But, make sure you don’t put pressure on them by asking a lot of questions about the exam.
Students might sometimes open up about their school life at home when they want to. When they are talking, try to listen. They might feel a lack of respect and feel unworthy and stop sharing once you interrupt them. They might not share a lot, but when they do, they want to be heard. Make sure you show them empathy and that you’re trying to understand their situation. You don’t need to understand every detail and you might also want to ask if they want advice before actually giving them because they usually just want comfort!
5. Take a Break Together
IB life is intense and tough for IB students and IB parents too, which is why you also need to take a break sometimes. It can be anything, going for a walk, a bike, a drive, shopping, a brunch, a movie, or having a BBQ party at home. Try to find something refreshing that both you and your children can enjoy. It doesn’t necessarily mean that you cannot take a break alone, but it’s important to have some family time so that you can all forget about IB once in a while. Not only is this refreshing but it gives you a chance to communicate, too. When you think about having family time, we would recommend to ask your children about their schedules. You will then know what’s going on in their social and academic life, and they would know you respect their life outside the home. Even just by taking a small break, you will have some time to catch up with each other and appreciate each other more!