September 28, 2020
It’s September, which can only mean one thing: schools are back (after six months), and if you’re a first-time parent, you’re about to experience the murky world of playground politics. Take a deep breath. Very deep. It could get messy.
How To Survive The Murky World Of Playground Politics As A Parent
It’s not all bad, of course – I’ve done it once with my daughter, who’s now in Year 4, and made Friends I’ll have for life. I’m also going through it again with my son, who’s just started Reception, and have already forged bonds I hope will grow as we spend the next seven years saying “hi” and “bye” to each other at the school gate. 
But it can certainly be fraught, and I’ve been on the receiving end of “mum wars”, playground politics, and unnecessary gossip. I’ve also been drawn into arguments via the school WhatsApp group that I wish I’d never had. 
“Tensions between parents and carers at the school gate have always been there and it can, at times, feel like being back at school yourself,” author and parenting expert, Liat Hughes Joshi, tells HuffPost UK. “At the moment we’re all feeling a bit fragile, and there’s a potential edge to those school gate relationships.” Related... 'Collect Child, Leave Immediately': The Loss Of The Playground Pick-Up Buzz Joshi says one of the reasons why relationships between parents can be so tricky is because people are emotional and invested in their children – but some people get over-emotional and over-invested. This can lead to all sorts of issues – from gossiping about another child’s behaviour, to one child not being invited to a birthday party.
So how can you steer clear of the gauntlet of playground politics for the first time? Be friendly, but cautious, says Joshi. Steer clear of emotional or “tricky” topics such as politics and religion, and people’s views on social distancing. And if you feel yourself getting worked up, “take a deep breath and walk away”.
If you do get involved in some parent-playground-drama, it’s important to maintain perspective. Child psychologist Dr Amanda Gummer reminds us that clashing with people isn’t uncommon. “Often, meanness comes from a need to feel better about themselves,” she tells HuffPost UK. “Mean people are rarely happy people. If you can couch it in that, it becomes their thing, not your thing.”Related... I Didn’t Think School WhatsApp Groups Could Get Any Worse. They Did. It’s also important to have self-awareness, she says, and to take ownership of your own mistakes.
If you get into an argument, or heightened disagreement, with another parent on the playground – take a step back and answer these three questions: 1. Do you value their opinion? 2. Is it well-founded? And 3. Have you done anything to warrant it? 
“One of the ways to learn from this is how you react to it, especially in front of your children,” she says. “Make sure that mean people don’t turn you into someone you don’t want to be.”Another option is to call out any unkind behaviour immediately. “You could ask, ‘Did you mean that?’ or repeat what they’ve just said, to seek clarification,” suggests Dr Gummer. 
Above all, she says, think about the advice you would give your own child. It’s likely to be the same for a parent. 
“Acknowledge that if you’re a bit stressed and frazzled, you might be over-sensitive to stuff – and give yourself a break. You could also try acknowledging that the other person might be having a hard time by asking them if they’re struggling – and if you can help. 
“There’s a famous quote that I like to turn to, that might help parents in this situation: ‘For some people, you will never be good enough. The question is: is it your problem – or theirs?’”Related... Before You Call My Son A Little Jerk, There's Something You Should Know About Him Will There Be A Second Lockdown In England? Students May Be Told To Stay On Campus For Christmas, Confirms Matt Hancock
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