4 Steps to a Smoother Back ~ To ~ School
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Change can be stressful for any child, but new people and situations can be especially difficult for children who have been adopted. Going back to school doesn’t have to be a difficult transition for your child. Here are four easy ways to help your child transition back to school, paving the way for a smoother September for you and your family.
1. Transitional Object
Send your child to school with something that allows him or her to check in with his or her “home base” (that’s you!!). Be creative with this. Send lunch box notes or exchange “friendship” bracelets with your child. Make a charm out of sculpey clay with your child that he can wear during the time that he is away from you. This small gesture will give your child something tangible to have during the day– something she can touch or look at. Staying connected will increase your child’s coping skills and remind her that you’ll be reunited soon.
2. Teacher Check-In
During the first week or two of school, talk to your child’s teacher about any special needs your child has. Do certain dates or situations trigger your child? Does the teacher have plans to do any of those dreaded assignments, like family trees? Perhaps you can offer alternatives to the teacher. Depending on your child’s age, you could read your child’s class a story about adoption.
3. Avoid Power Struggles
Attending school for eight hours a day means your child’s coping skills are completely used up during that time. Eight hours is a long time for an adult to “keep it together,” let alone a child. Your home and family are a safe place for your child and therefore ~ by default ~ a place where your child feels safe enough to melt down. Are you noticing a decrease in frustration tolerance or increased need for attention? This is all because your child’s coping skills have been diminished. The easiest way to avoid meltdowns is to consider how you want to choose your battles. Does your child want to wear mismatching socks in the morning? Did she pick out a hair bow that isn’t your favorite or doesn’t match her outfit? Can you make the morning routine less stressful by packing lunches the night before or picking out clothing? Does homework have to be done immediately upon coming home from school or is a half hour break after school reasonable for your child and family? Really consider where you want to spend your energy. You will avoid unnecessary meltdowns and your child may even be able to handle the “important battles” more easily.
4. Slow Down!
When did life get so complicated?? Tae Kwon Do, Ballet, and Chinese lessons are a lot of fun but may actually be doing more harm that good. In the first few months of school, keep your child’s schedule open. Allow your child plenty of time to complete their homework. Make sure your family has enough time to spend time together and stay connected, because that connection will help your child cope better at school.
Have fun and enjoy the 2010 school year!
Robyn Gobbel, LCSW is a child and family therapist in Austin and Bastrop Texas specializing in adoption and attachment.
P.S. Would you like to distribute this article to teachers, coworkers, case workers, or friends? Download a PDF version of this article HERE and feel free to pass along to anyone who could benefit.