Going back to school can be both exciting and challenging for all members in a family. Whether that be helping your child adjust to their first year of school, allowing your child to transition from summer routines back to school routines, fear of homework, or dropping them off at college for the first time. Each come with unique set of needs.
For children who have had a break in attachments or trauma in their background, this transition can sometimes be even more challenging. Some ways that the trauma can present itself in school might be:
Trouble with forming relationships at school, with teachers and peers
Struggles with transitions during the school day
Thinking about how to support your child properly can sometimes feel overwhelming for parents. Here are some suggestions for helping you to advocate and support your child:
Create morning/after school routine signs in a central location for your child to reference. For children who do not do well with change, this can help empower your child to be prepared for what will be expected in the morning before school and after school.
Meet your child’s teachers. It is always good to meet your child’s teachers and special education staff if needed. You are your child’s biggest advocate on how to create the most successful learning environment for your child. Children with a history of trauma may need some extra assistance in certain areas of school. Start the school year out right by getting to know your child’s teachers can help empower both parties to have a successful school year.
Listen empathetically to your child. Facing that first day of school for a child can be so scary and overwhelming. It can be easy as parents to want to try to fix the problem or find a solution. As that is helpful, when your child is overwhelmed by emotions they are not able to use the logical side of their brain. Listen to what your child is saying, verbally identify what emotions they are demonstrating/feeling, and then just be with them until they are ready to move into a solution plan. This approach assists with attachment and calming of the brain.
Make sure to pack a sufficient amount of snacks in your child’s school bag. Some children who have experienced food insecurity can feel overwhelmed or distracted when food is not available. An easy fix would be to make sure there are healthy snacks in both your child’s backpack and school desk, if allowed. Your child can be more focused knowing that they may get a snack whenever they would like throughout the day.
Morning exercise. For children who have a hard time with self-regulation and/or ADHD, getting some morning exercise in can really help set up your child for a more productive morning. Suggestion might be to run the stairs, laps around the house, or do some deep sensory input with exercise balls or elastic bands.
Don’t over pack your child’s evenings. Transitioning into a new routine can be exhausting. Getting enough sleep is so important for a growing brain, especially brains who have had some trauma. Also, with children who have been diagnosed with ADHD keeping it together all day is exhausting. Expecting too much out of your child in the evening can be setting both parties up to be frustrated.
Nightly bonding time. For younger children, being conscious of any opportunity to bond with your child is important. Do nighttime snuggles and stories. For children in middle to high school, allow time to communicate with your child. Not trying to solve their school problems but to just listen, allow your child to share about what is going on in their world. For college students, send a text every so often to remind them that you are thinking about them. That first year of college can be scary, especially for young adults with possibly insecure attachment styles. You need to reassure them you will always be there.
Although each child’s back to school journey will be inherently different, we encourage families to find education or support with other adoptive families to help their child thrive in a traditional school setting.