Is your shopping done yet? Have you nailed the best deals on all of the supplies on your child’s class list? Is the smell of new athletic shoes and fresh clothing purchases permeating your house yet?
While it all sounds so hopeful, if you’re house is anything like ours, there’s a slow, sickening churning of the stomach beginning. Back to school feels as uncertain it does exciting, especially with a child who has extra challenges. Walking toward the new school year can feel like marching nearer to a fully charged mine field.
This begs the question, How does a parent like me, with a child transitioning into high school get past the nervousness to start the year with a positive frame of mind?
Here are some of the things I am doing to keep an elevated focus:
- KNOW THE TEAM – Prior to any school year, it ALWAYS helps to know the staff your child will be working with. Aside from teachers and administrators, health room staff, behavior intervention specialists, occupational therapists, speech therapists, and other special education team members should be willing to sit down for a brief meeting.
- GET A “ONE PAGER” READY – Given the number of IEPs staff need to look at, I HIGHLY recommend coming up with a ONE PAGE summary of your child for staffers to have handy. Include key challenges, diagnosis, what that diagnosis looks like in your child, treatment protocol overview, and best approaches to use with your child. (See “Getting to Know You” for further insights.)
- TAKE ADVANTAGE OF EARLY TOURS & BUDDY OPPORTUNITIES – Familiarity breeds confidence… For both kids AND parents. Doing a walk-through of a school’s halls, offices, grounds, and rooms helps diminish fear of the unknown. Many schools offer a shortened day prior to the beginning of the school year to give students an opportunity to see what their upcoming days might look like. Others offer buddy activities with upper classmen to orient children to school. Still others are open to the idea of having your child come to the school to “walk their schedule” in the weeks before the new school year convenes. Take advantage of ANY and all of those opportunities. If they are not offered, ASK for them.
- SCHEDULE ADEQUATE SLEEP AND HEALTHY MEALS… FOR EVERYONE – In the weeks before school begin, as difficult as it can be, get your family back on the sleep schedule that you keep during the school year. Adjust the bed time and wake time by 30 minute increments at a time. Make certain everyone is getting plenty of water along with the garden fresh bounty available this time of year. Care for yourself and your entire family in ways that will assure you have ample reserves to draw from when school begins.
- TAKE ADEQUATE TIME TO DISCUSS FEARS WITHOUT OBSESSING – Listen to your child’s concerns about the upcoming school year or difficulties at the start of the year. Validate them and assuage their fears to the best of your ability. It helps to get at these concerns early on rather than festering into a much larger school difficulty.
- SPEAK SCRIPTURE INTO YOUR YEAR – Assure your child of God’s presence with them through every moment of the school year by choosing a key verse to make your own. Verses like Deuteronomy 31:8, Joshua 1:9, and Matthew 28:20 can not only comfort, but also strengthen us along with our kids. Don’t forget that God promises us that His word WILL accomplish His good purposes in, for, and through us!
- PRAY! – Ultimately, the amount of actual control we have over any given day is minimal. The transition back into the school year IS a scary time. As we hold our breath, hoping for the best, we need to do our best work on our knees. Start by meditating on the character of God. This can’t help but lift your focus. As you meditate on His character, praise Him for who He is. Place your concerns about the school before Him. Then trust Him because of that character you were just praising. He’s got this!
So, now that I’m done preaching the back-to-school gospel to myself (and to you), let’s go get ‘em! We can do this! God has our backs.