School is not always the easiest place for our children that were adopted. We love them dearly and sending them to school can cause anxiety for everyone. Here are a few ways to advocate for your adopted child at school, and hopefully reduce everyone’s anxiety!
1. Talk to the Principal
Before your child even sets foot in the school, plan a meeting with the school’s principal to simply explain your child’s story. Principals really appreciate knowing about the students that they need to look out for. Sharing this information with the principal can begin a positive relationship between you and the school principal; it can mean extra help for your child at school in way of an Educational Assistant or resource support; it can begin the creation of a “School Team” for your child; and it can increase understanding and empathy for your child from the school administration.
2. Give your child’s teacher as much info as possible
Get to know your child’s teacher. Impart as much information as necessary about your child so that the teacher will know how best to help your child learn. Make sure to mention if your child is receiving any services such as occupational or speech therapy. Even little details about whether your child was able to learn to spell their name and how easy or difficult it was for your child to learn. These are clues that can help your teacher help your child learn.
3. Communicate daily with your child’s teacher
Whether it’s in a book or over email, always keep that line of communication open. Find out how your child is doing academically and socially in the classroom. Be open and ready to hear about the days that are not so good and why, and the days that are good and why. Be willing to hear all the news, ups and downs. This will give you a better picture of how you can support your child at school.
4. Encourage your child’s teacher
Being a parent can be quite challenging sometimes. Can you imagine parenting your child plus another 19 needy kids? A teacher’s job is challenging for sure. Managing the different needs of everyone in the classroom definitely keeps them on their toes. Be kind and understanding to your child’s teacher. Respect their boundaries and encourage them. A $5 coffee card doesn’t seem like much, but it tells your child’s teacher that you appreciate them. A thoughtful gift at Christmas (it can be as little as creating a card with your child and writing a thank you message to the teacher) goes a long way to encouraging the teacher.
5. Coach your child in social situations
Sometimes when kids are overwhelmed and reacting to a situation, other kids get caught in the crossfire and end up with their feelings hurt, and their perspective of your child becomes misconstrued. This can start to drive a wedge between your child and their newfound friends. Making friends may come easily, but keeping friends can be quite difficult. If your child or teacher notes that a schoolmate was hurt by your child’s impulsive words, encourage your child to write apology notes. A little “I’m sorry” note with a sticker or a kind word on it can go a long way in helping your child keep friends and mend bridges.
Coaching your child on coping strategies when they encounter “big overwhelming feelings” is essential as well. Teaching them to breathe instead of reacting, counting when frustrated, and moving to another area when feeling too crowded can help decrease altercations at school.
6. Encourage the class to think of your child positively
Sometimes all the class may see is occasional (or constant) class interruptions by your child. You can help offset the occasional difficult time by bringing in class treats at your child’s birthday, Halloween, and/or Christmas. Any chance that you have to give the class a positive image of your child goes a long way to shaping the view the kids have of your child.
When you model this, even your adopted child may pick up on the kindness behind it. Just the other day my daughter in grade one, came home from school talking about how not everyone in her class had a highlighter. (Why highlighters? I’m not really sure). She decided that she wanted to get highlighters for the kids in her class. I asked her if she would use her money (birthday money) for it, and she said yes. So off we went to find highlighters and the next day she gave a highlighter to everyone in her class. It was a really awesome act of kindness coming from her!
As your child continues in their school career, continue to advocate for your child. Continue to work with the school team to make sure that your child is receiving everything they need to succeed. Continue to communicate with the principal and teachers. Your child is amazing. You know this. The school needs to know this. The world needs to know this!