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Sending your child off to school can be difficult, especially if you’re nervous about how she will interact with her classmates, teachers and school administrators. But, if you prepare and communicate, your child’s time in the classroom doesn’t have to cause meltdowns.
Discuss your child’s behavioral triggers, any areas of concern and ways to help. It is important to make the teachers aware of known challenges and help them understand what might actually help your child cope. Things like their desk position, having a safe place to emotionally calm down, using headphones to block noises, availability of fidgets/items to help with any sensory needs, having access to water to drink, specific playground concerns, known bullies, and what seat to use on the bus can often prevent behavioral meltdowns and aggression.
Ask if any classroom volunteers are needed and if so, do that. Field trips, parties, field day, or other opportunities within the school environment can allow you to see how your child has adapted and if other supportive services may be needed. It is also a good time to compliment the teacher on helping your child successfully adapt.
Discuss challenging assignments with the and why they are emotionally difficult for your adopted child. Certain assignments such as family trees, bringing in baby pictures, the school Grandparent’s Day, discussions about race and ethnicity, genetics discussions, talking about foster care and adoption, immigration discussion, current events in your child’s (birth) home country, personal timelines, and family traditions can cause stress and anger. Your child may not have certain items requested or know their family history. He/she may have feelings of inferiority or about being different from his/her peers. In discussions about wars or uprisings in their birth country, they may become fearful for their birth family’s safety. Some activities the other children can do or talk about may exacerbate their feelings about not fitting in. Focusing on what your child or others may perceive as negative, such as race or ethnicity, may cause shame and identity confusion. You are your child’s best advocate, so be sure to let the teacher know what is going on with him or her.
Communicate effectively and openly with all school staff. What is the easiest way for the teacher to communicate with you? Allow the teacher or administrators the options of using phone, email, text, etc. to reach you. They have many other children under their care too, so help make it easy for them to communicate.
Make the teacher aware of any homework difficulties and why something may not have been completed. If your child had an emotionally difficult day for some reason, be honest about this and ask if the assignment can be made up or completed later.
Identify any problematic relationships with peers so the teacher can watch for signs of distress in your child. Children can be cruel to other children and they often choose times outside of the teacher’s view to do this. If your child’s teacher is aware of challenging relationships, he or she can help prevent any unwanted encounters.
Offer your child’s teacher educational resources about adoption: books, activities, training sessions, webinars, and alternative assignments. Not every teacher is familiar with adoption or the challenges that can surface as a result of it. You will be surprised how welcome these additional resources will be received… and maybe even shared with other teachers!
Advocate for your child by discussing adoption terminology with school personnel. For example, don’t use phrases like “real parents”, “they gave you away”, or “you were lucky to be adopted.”
Make the teacher aware of any of your child’s identified trauma anniversaries that could trigger unwanted behaviors and reactions in the classroom.
Assure homework is specified so you as the parent can help your child and encourage him/her to complete it.
Returning to school in any year can be challenging, especially for adoptees. Returning to school after a pandemic and varied levels of remote and in-person learning across the country can be even more complicated, anxiety inducing and difficult to navigat
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