Navigating School Challenges With Children Who Have Experienced Trauma

The Honestly Adoption Podcast: Season 8, Episode 72

With the holiday season in full stride, it won’t be long before our kids will head back to school. Perhaps for you, this school year has been filled with challenges for your children. Have you ever wondered how to adequately express those issues to your child’s teacher or principal? Today, on the show, we explore some strategies.

Mike and Kristin were recently interviewed by our good friend, Jami Kaeb from The Forgotten Initiative Podcast on how to navigate school challenges with children who have experienced significant trauma. In this replay, they offer practical advice to help parents navigate the challenges their children experience at school.

Listen Now:

Notes and Quotes:

Why is school a challenge for kids from trauma?
  • Anything can be a trigger for kids from trauma.
  • Some things, in a very typical school day, will just be too much for a child from trauma.
  • There are many things below the surface that you cannot see.
A couple of challenging times to be aware of:
  • Transition times, like before and after holidays
  • Beginning of the school year.  It can be tricky to figure out who the teacher is, their understanding of trauma, how much information to share
How to offer a “heads up” to teachers:
  • “Head’s up!  My son was adopted.  I just want to let you know that he went through quite a bit of trauma when he was younger.  Here’s a couple things to watch for but if you are having a great year, awesome.”
  • “Hey, my child had to cope by being endearing/cute/sneaky.  If you notice anything like that, can you just let me know?”
  • Have a beginning conversation that gives enough information to let teachers know what to watch for and when you would like to be contacted about certain behaviors.
  • You don’t have to tell them ALL of it, but be proactive in helping the teachers to understand your child and their special circumstances.
How can we work well with teachers and administrators?
  • Get to know the teachers and administrators on a personal level.
  • Own your actions.  Apologize if you need to.
  • Remember that no professional wants to be called out and made to feel stupid.
  • Keep your emotions in check in meetings with teachers and administrators.
  • Find a sounding board/friend to talk it out and then narrow down what you need to go in a share.
  • Communication is key.  Deal with conflicts and issues as they arise.
  • Remember that everyone is on the same team.
What Parents Can do to Help their Children Succeed
  • Know what your role is.
  • Take on a position of observance over teaching.
  • Ask yourself what you want your kids to succeed in.  Character matters more than achievement.
  • Focus in on what truly matters, which is the heart.
  • Create a space where your child knows they are delighted in.
  • Scorn, shame, and lecturing won’t work. Check out How to Correct Your Child Without Shaming
  • Don’t be embarrassed because of your kids and let your own shame affect how you treat your child.
How do you advocate for your kids with school projects that bring up shame and loss, such as “bring in your baby pictures?”
  • First, stay in communication with the teacher.
  • Stay calm.
  • Communicate about feelings with your children.  Acknowledge feelings and help them work through it.
  • View the tricky projects as an opportunity to learn to work through emotions.
Dealing with the holidays:
  • Proactively let the teachers know this may be a hard season.  Communicate.
  • Set appropriate boundaries.  You may have to avoid some things like the classroom holiday parties.
  • Cut out certain events.  Too much is just too much.
  • Stand your ground but also be willing to compromise.
  • Make your own “ideal.”  It may look different than what others do or what you thought your expectations were.
  • What will my child remember?  What is going to make this a really good holiday season.
The Main Things To Remember:

Communicate with grace and remember: It’s O.K. to not be O.K.  Everyone is not going to get all of this parenting thing right.  There are wins and losses.  We are all going to make mistakes.  Get up and move forward.

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