It’s that time of year again.
Parents know the drill. Fresh from the summer holidays of relaxed schedules and letting the children stay up late, you’ve barely brushed the sand from between your toes when you have to snap straight back into hustle mode.
Trips to the uniform shop (did you make an appointment? You must make an appointment!) to stock up on the things the children grew out of, plus pencil cases, iPads, backpacks, caps, badges … the list seems endless.
And on that joyous, magical day when you kiss your children goodbye and pack them off to school, perhaps indulging in a Rocky-style victory salute that you finally got them out of the house, you think to yourself: That’s it, right? Right?
Alas, no. Because that’s when the parent group WhatsApp chat chimes up.
Inauspicious at first. Tentative even. Some introductory “Hi, my name is X, and I’m the parent of Y” messages. Perhaps an emoji hand wave or two.
Then the questions start and from then on it’s message, message, message, pew, pew, pew, like the jump into hyperspace in Star Wars.
Except the stars zooming past you are questions – so many questions – and you’re staring at your phone wondering what on Earth is going on and what emails have you missed.
Here are six ways to maintain your sanity in a class group chat.
1. Mute the chat
Turn it off, and not just the eight hours or one-week option. Hit the always button and be done.
Class group chats can easily rack up 30, 40, 50 messages per day, especially in the year group ones and particularly around busy times, such as the start of school or things such as exams, ECA enrolment and end-of-year arrangements.
Don’t read them as they come in, rather take a few minutes at the end of the day to catch up.
2. Accept that many parents will not read the school emails
The school equivalent of Mark Twain’s famous “death and taxes” answer to the inevitability of life, you need to accept that a lot of parents on the chat will not read the school emails. Ever.
Questions will be asked in the chat that will have you murmuring “It’s written in the email” to yourself.
However, remember that many mums and dads rely on the chat as their sole source of information because the number of school communications can be overwhelming. Accept it and move on.
3. Don’t post personal things
You may have found a certain meme hilarious or an inspirational quote uplifting but (spoiler alert) many people won’t.
The class WhatsApp is not the place for kitten memes and Big Bang Theory gifs; save them for your friends. Also remember that not everyone on the chat will share the same beliefs or world view as you.
The same goes for promoting your business ventures. Save that for Facebook or Instagram.
4. Don’t chat with friends
Yes, it’s the class chat, but chat is subjective here and conversations should be kept to school-related things.
It’s fantastic that your child is back in the same class as their bestie from last year and a quick back and forth of happy texts is fine, but if you want to chat to your parent friends, take it off the group and message them directly.
5. Don’t invite specific children to things on the chat
The amount of class chats I have been on where the parents of a child having a birthday party have been very specific about who they want to invite is long. Such as last year, when someone posted that their daughter “only wanted to invite the girls” to her party (my son was in the class).
If you want to invite certain children to certain things, that’s perfectly fine, just ask: “Who is X’s parent?”, then take it on to private chat, or start a subgroup.
If your child wants to invite only certain children to their party (as is their right), do a little digging for names rather than blasting your intentions on the chat. Trust me, you won’t appreciate it when it’s your little one being publicly excluded.
6. Understand that parents are simply concerned about their children
Panicked messages and an overabundance of exclamation marks and question marks are par for the course in the class chat.
It's hard to read context on WhatsApp and messages can often seem like parents need to know the information right now or the world will end.
Understand that, just like you, other mums and dads are just worried that their child might miss out on something important if they don’t stay on top of things, and that the "!!!!!!!!!!!” overkill is just normal parent anxiety.