School is back in Spain which also means reactivating the parents’ WhatsApp groups. Love them or hate them, they are a source of information, gossip and a venting outlet throughout the year.
My kids started at a new school this year which meant that there was one blissful week of no parents WhatsApp groups whilst transitioning. But guess what, I actually went out of my way to connect with these groups as it really is my only contact with the other parents and my way of keeping up on what’s going on. I have three kids split between infants and primary school so I’m in three separate groups plus three class birthday groups (yikes!). I can’t keep every detail of dates and after school classes and finishing times in my head all of the time and the groups mean that I can dip in, ask a question. Get help from other parents. Understand how things work at the school. These are the benefits of the groups (the negatives are discussed further on).
Ideally these group chats are meant to share important information regarding your child’s day in school, receiving updates and reminders about school events as well as sharing parents’ advice. And most of the time these group chats can be a great resource and an enjoyable place to be in. In fact, not being in one can make you feel as if you are missing out.
Gone are the days when our parents (usually Mums) only met parents at the school gates. Fast forward to now and although our lives are busier (multiple afterschool activities and different working hours) the way that we communicate with fellow parents has changed and we are now more in contact than ever before. We can even be in constant conversation with them if we so wish (please no).
Recently el País (one of Spain’s national newspapers) published an informal study on the most used words in WhatsApp groups in Spain and regardless of the type of school (public, concertado or private) they discovered that conversation topics were similar across each but what made the difference was the children’s age groups.
Infants (3-6 years) group chats tend to be very active and unsurprisingly el salud (child’s health) is the main topic of conversation. Who hasn’t witnessed at least thirty versions of Qué se mejore (get better soon) hearing that Juanito has a runny nose. Pandemic times made these types of revelations quite tense! Another often used work is regalo (present) either for the teacher or children’s birthday party. It makes sense that these chats are so active as it can be a lot of first-time parents who for obvious reasons are more anxious compared to second or third time parents. As children grow older, the groups become less active and once they hit secondary, they all but disappear.
Whilst there is no doubt that parents’ WhatsApp groups have several benefits there are some definite pains. Regardless of age, some parents will endlessly discuss inane conversation topics such as type of bocadillo (baguette) to bring on school trip or whether or not school case / pencil case are needed for sports day, unfortunately the examples are endless. These serve to highlight how some parents use the group chats to micro-manage their children’s lives thereby stopping kids gaining their own life skills.
Here are some tips to ensure that groups are a wonderful, helpful and positive place:
- Behave in these groups as if you were in a real life meeting
- Only share information that is relevant to the group (Not Just Your Child). This means no photos of your child on first day of school, remember that all of our children celebrated their first day at school and we all think our children are adorable.
- Do not use the group as your child’s school agenda. They are the ones who must take responsibility for their homework and any other school obligations.
- Do not write too many messages or answer each of them individually.
- Politics is definitely a no go area.
- Neither is it the correct space to openly criticize school or teachers.
- Be helpful. And most importantly, be tolerant.
Any others that you would like to add to help make these chat groups better places?
Do not hesitate to get in touch if you would like my assistance as you begin your search for the right school for your child in Madrid.
Sinéad Galvin is an educational consultant and founded Steps into Spain (a boutique educational and relocation consultancy located in Madrid) to help families find the right school for their child in Madrid. She uses her professional and personal experience of Spanish schools, the Spanish education system and the Spanish way of life to ensure that parents are knowledgeable and informed about what to expect and can secure the best school for their child. A happy child is a happy parent!
Steps into Spain will take stock of your children’s educational needs and overall family requirements (housing, paperwork and general settling in). Our trusted and expert service is provided to families who are moving to Madrid from abroad. And also, to families who already live here and need some extra guidance and support.