I remember the last days of August before the start of school very well. A new school year for Chloe would be faced with her excitement, but my dread. Her anticipation of new friends and buddies was for me the fear of her friendships going awry, a new teacher unwilling to work with her challenges, and homework meltdowns at the end of the day.
I often struggled with my own depression when Chloe was young but when school came around, I just wanted to go into hibernation. Life was so unpredictable and confusing for Chloe. Her neurological disorder prevented her from anticipating consequences so she had difficulty understanding others’ perspectives and how she could be challenging in a social setting.
The following are tips to help you get the school year off to a somewhat balanced start.
- Introduce yourself and your child to the teacher(s) before the school year starts and let them know your kid’s challenges, concerns and your worries. Teachers can be a huge advocate for your child and someone safe they can confide in.
- Front load your son/daughter EVERY night before school on what to expect at school, how to act, and what to do if they feel overwhelmed or stressed (make sure to involve the teacher in making a plan for when your child needs support).
- Debrief with your child every evening (NOT right after school) to assess how the day went and address any concerns. Ask them questions that require more than a yes or no answer.
- Figure out the best time for your son/daughter to do homework. Chloe used to completely meltdown about homework everyday because she was too overstimulated from the school day. If you feel like homework is too much for your child, talk with your teacher and the school about providing a modification to their school plan. This might require an assessment and Individual Education Plan. If so, I would recommend moving forward as it’s not worth the continual hysterics and misery.
- Recognize your child has different needs and may require an alternate approach to learning and parenting. Try not to get stuck in family or societal expectations of what’s acceptable and what’s not. You know your child best and while you want to challenge your children, you’ll most likely know if something is askew.
- Remember that challenging children don’t want to be “bad,” they lack the skills necessary to be “good.” It’s our job as caregivers to help identify how they struggle. I always like to use Dr. Ross Greene’s method: Proactive and Collaborative Solutions found HERE.
- Use the HALT method and teach it to your child – never get too HUNGRY, ANGRY, LONELY, TIRED. Learn more about the HALT method HERE.
- Try to make time for yourself. Even if it’s five minutes of meditation, walking or reading a book. Our children feed off our own anxieties and stress.
Always know you are not alone in this journey!