Cooperative preschool is all about building your community through the common bond: our children. Here is a whole community of parents, teachers, and parent educators who know what it is like to raise a young child. We support one another. We give our children the opportunity to grow in a warm and nurturing environment. There are two parts to co-oping and they are inseparable: trusting and being trustworthy. To trust others with our children is an act of faith. To be worthy of the trust other parents place in us is an honor. How do we go about building that trust? How can we help, encourage and support one another in raising our children? How do we build community in co-op preschool?
Here are some suggestions:
- Get to know each other! Take every opportunity to meet and get to know the other parents. When you go to the class meetings, the social events and meet-ups, the work parties, and to the preschool itself, be open to meeting new people. Resist the Seattle freeze! Smile and say “Good morning” or “Good-bye” to your child’s classmates and parents. Reach out for playdates outside of class time.
- Offer to help someone. Arrange a meal train for a parent who is having a new baby. If you see another family struggling, offer to help (carpooling to school, watch a child when someone has a doctor’s appointment, etc.). Help the child who is having trouble separating from his or her parent. Guide and mentor families that are new to co-op.
- Accept help. When you are stressed out and someone offers help, accept it. You will have an opportunity to repay them another day. If no one offers, do not hesitate to ask. There are many good hearted people here.
- Be positive! Look for the good, and cheer it on. Everyone here is sensitive, of course, about their children and parenting. Be kind. Keep confidences.
- Notice how and what other children are doing. Many of us are curious to know just what our children are like when we aren’t there. Share the good things that happened at preschool with the parents at pick up.
- Organize. Buddy up with another parent who works on your non-working day. This parent can be your child’s special helper for that day, and you can be their child’s helper on your workday. Spend time with every child in the classroom, learn their names, and play with them. The more people in the class your child trusts, the more secure he or she will feel.
- Follow through on your commitments. Be reliable. Give grace to those who need it and are struggling in this area.
- Try something different. Preschool is an opportunity to experiment. We can play different games, in different ways from what your own child would choose. We learn about our child’s friends and about the world of possibilities open to him or her.
- Look to the future. Preschool years are the beginnings. Encourage your child’s friendships; they can begin at the co-op and last for many years. Maintain your own friendships as well. The parents with whom you co-op will turn up again and again, volunteering, coaching, helping in the community and taking leadership positions in the schools. They are your resource people and your support – your community.
Co-oping is determination, cooperation, and optimism. The community of co-op has helped many families. Yes, it takes time, and effort, and energy. Is it worth is? We think so. We know so.