Ring. Ring. Ring. You looked at your phone reluctantly last school year, hoping it wasn’t another call from your child’s school. You held your breath and thought, “Now what did she do?”
But that was last year…right?
As school nears, you may have mixed emotions of relief as well as some anxiety. After all, children with reactive attachment disorder often struggle with behavior problems in school. Many teachers, principals, and school administrators don’t have the capacity to handle excessive behavior problems. If you can actively work to avoid negative situations, however, your child will have a better chance for success.
Here’s how those raising children with reactive attachment disorder can prepare for the school year:
1. Revise your child’s therapy sessions so he can continue at the same pace with his upcoming school schedule. Continue your child’s therapy and other helpful measures throughout the school year. Your child’s therapy needs, etc. don’t cease when school resumes. In fact, your child’s mental wellness should always be first priority.
2. Ask your child’s school staff to work with you to create an individual education plan (IEP) for your child if he doesn’t have one yet. It will help your child, you, school staff, and other students to succeed. Remain kindly persistent with school staff until this important document is complete.
3. Work with school staff to create a safety plan in regard to your child (often included in the IEP). Your goal should be to keep your child, other students, and school staff, safe. This includes preventing potential problems as well as plans of action in case of emergencies. Remember to include safety measures on the school bus, such as seating arrangements.
4. Introduce yourself to each of your child’s teachers before school starts or during the first week of school. It’s important to have open communication with your child’s school staff to express your concerns and help them to anticipate potential problems.
5. Ask your child’s teachers to seat him in the front of the classroom. This simple arrangement will help to avoid peer distractions.
6. Remember and convey that your child is responsible for his academics. You are not your child’s teacher. You are only responsible for providing resources and a quiet study environment for your child to complete homework assignments. The rest is the responsibility of your child. Explain your expectations of your child to his teachers early on so they understand that distinction. Do NOT allow school staff to hold you responsible for your child’s academics. As you go through the school year, remember that it’s okay to let your child fail a class or subject matter. The more kids with reactive attachment disorder can learn from the natural consequences of their actions, the better. Do not rescue him from the gift of failure.
7. Remember and convey that your child is responsible for his preparation for his school days as well. Let your child’s teachers know that your child is completely responsible for her preparation for the school day. Do not feel obligated to bring forgotten items to school that your child left at home (i.e. homework, lunch, or iPad). Again, these are valuable life-long lessons that you shouldn’t take from your child.
8. Support your child’s school staff. It’s vital that you’re on the same team as your child’s school staff, even when you disagree with them and especially in regard to their decisions in response to disruptive behavior. It can feel tricky to support school staff yet not take on responsibility for your child’s academics and behaviors. A big way to do so is to allow and encourage your child to work out issues with his teachers without your involvement.
9. When you communicate with a teacher, keep it between the two of you. In order to maintain good relationships with teachers, don’t go over their heads to address problems with your child. The ONLY time you should do so is with substitute teachers involved or when teachers don’t respond to your numerous inquiries.
10. Put an after-school schedule in place and review it with your child prior to the start of school. This communication will help your child’s transition from school to home because he’ll know what to expect. Stay as consistent as possible with that schedule.
Yes, the preparation for school can feel overwhelming. Put the time in now though so you and your child can have a bit smoother year ahead. The phone calls may not end completely but they might slow down a little. Know that you’ve done what you can. Now see him off on the first day of school, take a deep breath, and let go.