August 26th, 2011 7:02am - Posted By: Anne Maxwell, LCSW, RPT-S
Going back to school for the start of a new year can bring to mind so many thoughts in simultaneity, whether you are a parent or a child, it is easy to lose perspective and feel overwhelmed. For many children, the end of the summer means the end of a playful, easy time filled with days of camp or sleeping in late or hanging out at the pool or being with friends all day long. For others, who perhaps did not have as many of those opportunities, or who love the structure of school, the end of summer can be a bit of a relief. Many children, for whom the start of school is anxiety provoking, are reminded of homework, tests, new teachers, new kids, new principals to name but a few. For all parents, it represents yet another shift in scheduling, priorities, responsibilities. No matter who you are, or what point of view you hold, the advent of a new school year represents change! And, depending on how you and yours do with change, the transition from summer to school year can be more or less challenging!
What if transition times are more unsettling than others? Not only for children and families with trauma histories, or who are experiencing more stress than usual, but for most children and families. Even if the transition is to a known experience or event, it is a time of more stress. Have you ever been in a school cafeteria at lunch time? In a high school during passing period? Outside any school at the end of the school day? In any school during a fire or tornado drill? Let alone, in any school or classroom at the start of the school year??
What if the question becomes: What would it take for this transition back to school to be as seamless as possible for our children as well as for us?
If your child is transitioning from one school (or preschool) to another, plan to take him to visit the new school and classroom before the first day of school.
Meet with your child’s teacher, especially if your child has special needs (either academically or socially) regardless of whether she has an IEP or not.
Recognize that if your child starts to fall apart emotionally when school begins, he is not doing so to make your life miserable! Chances are he is so stressed out he cannot cope. What if he needs reassurance? What if there are struggles with teachers or peers that he is unable to voice? Give him the benefit of the doubt that he is doing the best he can with what he has in the given moment. Ask questions. (What is this?) And ask more questions. (What else is possible?) And ask more, until things start to shift. (What would it take for this to turn out better than anything I could have planned or imagined?) What if you don’t answer those questions, and instead look to see what shows up.
Visit the classroom while school is in session. Come away with a sense of what it would be like to be your child in that classroom and ask what it would take to change anything that isn’t working for your child.
Know that the teacher is doing the best she can with what she has. It may not be much, and, it may not be enough for your child. It may not be a good fit. Trust your awareness of the teacher’s capacity and of what your child needs, and, act accordingly! Talk with the teacher. If your child thrives in a classroom where there is flexibility, and, finds herself in a classroom with a rules bound teacher, consider having her switch classrooms.
Advocate for your child. Trust your knowing, even if it flies in the face of “conventional wisdom.”
Posted in: Tools and Techniques
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