Take your kid school supply shopping.
Start a countdown to the start of school.
Talk about it a lot to prepare them.
I know. I’m crazy. I think differently and that’s ok because my kids NEED me to think differently.
This school year, we will be entering into our 8th back to school transition. There are so many things I wish we had done differently but I didn’t know what I didn’t know. Now I know more about my child, have a better understanding of the effects of trauma & know how easily loss in adoption can be triggered by the best intending projects.
As an adoptive mom, ETC parent trainer, former teacher & as I’ve walked the road with many foster/adoptive families, I’ve learned more of what my children need & ways we intentionally make the transition as smooth as possible.
These are things that MY children need. My children have high anxiety & transitions of any kind are a challenge. Every child, family & situation is different. There may be things on this list that I don’t do - that you/child do. Or vice versa. This list is not for everyone - but perhaps it encourages you examine why you do what you do & how to best serve your family.
Through this series, I’ll be taking a look at what we don’t do as we prep for a school year, ways to build bridges with your child's teacher & examples of how to communicate with your child’s teacher(s).
Part 1 is all about the things WE DON’T DO as we prep for the upcoming school year.
Here’s what we DON’T do:
1. Go school supply shopping together. I have great memories of spending an entire day shopping with my mom to get the newest folders, pencils & clothes. I see friends posting smiling pictures of their day out for lunch & shopping. So every year in Aug, with the greatest expectations, I would drag my oldest out to get all the new things & have a day of connecting. However, the reality is that it always ended up a nightmare. We’d both leave the store frustrated & more disconnected than when we started. Finally I realized that I had to shift my expectations. What was exciting & filled with great memories for me, was scary & gave him a lot of anxiety for the upcoming year. (I’ll admit part of it could be, as a boy, he could care less about those new supplies!) So now, I simply go out & give him the supplies he needs to take to school. I’ll ask him for color preferences or if he wants anything specific but really it’s just no big deal. * For some kids, picking out their supplies could be a great thing. It can empower them to make choices, have ownership & allow for some time to connect with a parent one-on-one. It's just something that doesn't work for my child.
2. Talk A LOT about the upcoming school year & have a countdown to the first day. Some kids need the visual reminders of when things will happen & they are great for setting up expectations. For my child that deals with anxiety, countdowns & talking about it just adds nerves & raises more questions than it does answers. (This goes the same for the end of school. This year his principal banned “End of Year” Countdowns - & it made a WORLD of difference for him!) That is not to say we don’t ever talk about school. I let my child lead the conversations -when to talk about it, questions he has & what he wants to know. My questions are more related to how he’s feeling, giving him words & room to share his concerns. Sometimes I share my own stories of school - the funny & the hard stuff that I went through as a child. It’s easy for us to forget (& for our children to realize) we were once facing a new school year too!
3. Plan a busy weekend after the first week of school. I used to love getting together with friends or planning something fun to do as a way to celebrate back school and the end of our summer weather in Chicago. After a few years of total meltdowns by my children (& me) - I’ve learned that we are all tired after the start of school. Getting back into the routine, all the emotions & changes left us spent. Now we plan for an easy Friday night - pizza & a movie (maybe ice cream too!). The weekend is left fairly open so we all have SPACE to recoup. A simple change in my mindset has made all the difference in the world!
4. Do it alone. We are fortunate to have family members & other friends that love our children dearly & understand their unique needs. I reach out to a few people & ask them to pray specifically for the first few days back at school. There is nothing like knowing others are lifting my children up throughout the day.
I also recognize that my children are not alone! The Creator who made them cares deeply & knows the number of hairs on their head. Throughout the year, we are teaching them to recognize when they are feeling anxious or worried & how to overcome those feelings with the truth of God’s Word. The same is true for me. I can do all the things (or in this case - NOT DO) but the best thing I can do to prepare myself & my children for the upcoming year is to pray for them. Praying for my children reminds me that He is in control & to surrender our kids to Him!
In part 2 of this series, I will share 5 tips in preparing for the transition back to school.