Preparing for Transition
● By Hood Magazine
School provides wonderful opportunities for children to develop friendships and learn new skills. Children who were adopted or in foster care—especially those whose histories include abuse, neglect, or orphanage life—often experience unique educational challenges. These challenges can be related to the learning process or to something less obvious—simply feeling socially or emotionally vulnerable at school.
Losing a parent is a child’s greatest fear. Young children who were adopted or in foster care have already experienced this loss at least once in their lives, and they are often apprehensive when separated from adoptive or foster parents. They may also show more anxiety about the change and unfamiliarity that a new school or classroom represents.
When you understand why your child feels vulnerable, you can employ several strategies to prepare for a new school year.
1. Visit the school or the classroom with your child before school starts. One visit can alleviate anxieties your child would have faced on the first day. Becoming more familiar with the new school environment can help your child adjust—and even look forward—to this new experience.
2. Meet with your child’s teacher. If your child has vulnerabilities related to early childhood trauma, general information about this—along with two or three basic strategies that will help in the classroom—can be helpful for the teacher. You don’t need to share all of the details of why your child has a particular sensitivity. Guard your child’s privacy, and ask the teacher to do the same.
3. Generate ideas with your child in advance. Common adoption-insensitive classroom assignments include family trees or providing baby pictures. In an age-appropriate way, ask your child how he or she would like to handle them. Talking about assignments in advance is especially important if your child does not want others to know that he or she was adopted. If the teacher knows, offer alternatives that are more inclusive.
4. Consider educational alternatives. Some children may benefit from alternatives such as starting school later, enrolling in a grade according to developmental rather than chronological age, or homeschooling. Know that this is normal, and it is okay to explore these educational alternatives to help your child thrive academically.