Back To School
Staci Thomas, TBRI® Practitioner
Back to school. Parents may both cheer and dread these three words. Some feel hopeful about new beginnings, friendships, and learning. Others are anxious about learning struggles and loneliness.
As parents of children who have experienced Complex Developmental Trauma, we have yet another layer to consider. Often, our children struggle with transitions. When our kids are nervous or concerned about a new school year, we may see behavioral backsliding, which in turn increases our own stress levels. Taking proactive steps, however, can help our children transition successfully to the school year.
First, we must create physical and emotional margin within our lives. Margin is the space between our load and our limits. It is necessary to maintain our own reserve so that we can be a responsive rather than reactive parent… Say no to what you can as the school year begins to help your child transition. By creating this margin, we have more patience in the moments of dysregulation that are sure to occur as the new routine is underway.
Physical and emotional margin make way for us as parents to find compassion within ourselves rather than irritation and impatience when children are struggling… Because transitions are difficult for children from hard places, routine and predictability give them a sense of safety and security. When routines change and new people and places enter their lives, our kids need time to settle in. Attempt to look at the world through their lens. Put yourself in their shoes. Remember, you are an adult with a fully formed brain who can look at situations logically. You have the resiliency to know from past circumstances that hard situations do eventually pass. Your child does not have that ability. On difficult mornings, take a deep breath and choose compassion.
Practice transitions. Be as prepared as possible the night before. Set out clothes and book bags. Have your child help you assemble their lunchbox. Create and maintain a routine bedtime. In the mornings, provide a protein-filled breakfast. Do all that you can to make your evenings and mornings as predictable as possible.
Aside from school scheduling and transitions, many of our children face the challenge of having weak executive function systems. Executive function includes short-term working memory, impulse control, and mental flexibility. If you are noticing weaknesses in these areas, let your Care Manager know. Chosen has tools to help you understand how to manage and strengthen your child’s executive function skills. Weaknesses in these areas can cause frustration in school for students and their teachers. Open communication with teachers at the beginning of the school year is necessary to build a team approach with your child. Helping a teacher understand your child’s executive function and even sensory needs will empower both your child and their teacher.
Back to school. With preparation, your family can have a successful new year.