Getting Our Kids Back To School

The time is here, in the UK, for our children to be returning to school for the new term. This can often be a time of mental relief for us as parents but also of anxiety. Anxiety for us and for our children. After six weeks or more with all the children at home, I feel like we have slipped into our own routine again with our own strategies for coping and making it all work. More down time and rest of sorts. Right now, I’m thinking about getting up much earlier and being far more organised and organised for the children to reduce the morning stress as much as possible. Work is also ramping up again for me now after a ‘break’ of sorts, although I have been catching moments to work quietly behind the scenes.

As always, I think the only way to make the transition as smooth as possible is to be as organised as possible. Some of our children will be going into a new year, a different part of the school, a new set of teaching staff, new subjects or a whole new school. Our human experience as adults tells us that things will be ok even if they are tricky to start with and that these are just moments in our lives, which all progress and move forward. It’s not so much the case for our children. They don’t have the experience to know this or often the emotional resilience to manage the situations. If, like Freddie, your child has a learning disability that can add a whole other dimension to the challenges.

I’ve been taking this past week to make sure Bella knows that I’m here if she has any questions about going back to school. I’m reminding her that the schedule will be changing to give her warning. Overall, I think she will love being back at school. I also think that Freddie will love being back at school but now I know that he has some issues with anxiety, I am getting organised and planning his social story about the return. The new teacher and new TA’s, the new children in his class. The name of his class and where in the school his classroom will be. I’m making sure that I have done my bit at home to decrease the anxiety as much as possible. Working on the bits that I can control.

Often, a big element of stress or anxiety for us as parents of kids who have special needs, is worrying about all the differences they have and how that impacts their time at school. Worrying that the new teacher won’t ‘get them’ and that their classmates won’t include them. That they will struggle each day. We absolutely are our child’s expert. We do know them best and we are their biggest advocates and want best for them. So, what are the things that we can do, things that we can control, about this period of transition? How can we decrease the worry for all of us? Often when we feel anxious we can go full on into defensive mode, particularly with teaching staff.

In my experience, the Velvet Bulldozer method works much better than charging in head first with demands, information and requirements. This needs to be a strong and positive ‘working’ relationship between you and your child’s educational care givers. If you haven’t already met the new teaching staff, an idea might be to write a letter or an email introducing yourself and your child. Tell them that you want to work together to give your son or daughter the best possible experience this year. Tell them that you have a few concerns and would like their help in working through them. Ask for a face to face meeting in the first few weeks if it’s possible. If not, a phone call would be the next best thing.

Get them on side. Apart from the odd teacher who isn’t in it for the right reasons and lacks the compassion needed to teach successfully, most teachers see the bigger picture and want success for all. Don’t forget, they are people too, with their own stresses and worries and fears for the year ahead and their home life. Teachers are not robots.

The aim for me, is always to start these conversations off in an open and honest way. Make an ally of them and work towards them having understanding and compassion of your child. Encourage them to advocate for your child alongside you.

If you feel unsure about what to write or how to advocate in this way, there are lots of resources available on the www.understood.org website. It’s based in America so for those of you in the UK or further afield, some of the contents might need tweaking but it’s a great base to start from. There are links to downloadable intro letters for the new school year or for visual plans to prepare your child for the transitions.

Good luck everyone.

If you are the parent of a child with special needs, you should join my closed Mentoring Facebook group, CEO of My Special Needs Family. You will find regular tips, help and support to keep you going and a supportive community of like minded parents and carers. Click here and request to join. See you in there. Xx

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