Written by Alexis Sullivan, International Team Lead
This time of year, families are preparing for the start of a new school year. New routines, new friends, new environments, and new paces of life can be exciting but also overwhelming for your adopted child. We’ve provided a few helpful hints to keep in mind when transitioning into a new school year:
- Get back into your sleep routine. To help eradicate those stressful school mornings, set up a regular bedtime and morning routine to help prepare your child for school. Begin your usual school sleep routine about a week or so before school starts. Let your child know what his/her schedule will be like. Tell your child what time school begins and ends each day. Re-establish school routines. Have your child practice getting back into the rhythm of their daily school routine. You can do this by having them wake up at the same time every day, and eat around the same time they would at school. About a week or so before school starts, plan a few outside activities where your child will have to leave and come home around the same time they would if they were in school. This will help them be rested and ready for the big day.
- Shop for school supplies together. To get your child excited about starting a new grade, shop for supplies together. Allow them to pick out their own backpack, lunchbox, etc. This is a great way to give them a little bit of responsibility, too! While shopping, ask your child about his/her feelings — both their excitement and their concerns — about starting school.
- Visit the school with your child to see his/her new classroom and meet his/her new teacher before school officially starts. This is a time where you can have a conversation with your child’s teacher about his/her adoption. Teachers are able to create a classroom with activities that are sensitive to adoption by seeing assignments through the eyes of an adopted child.Here is a resource provided by QIC-AG that parents can distribute to their child’s teacher(s): https://qic-ag.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/08/QICAG-Education-Brochure-v041-final.pdf
- 4. Point out the positive aspects of starting school. Get your child excited about starting school! In the days or weeks leading up until the first day back at school, make a special countdown with your kid- write down something different every few notches on the chain of paper rings. For instance, a week ahead, confirm they have everything ready to go in their backpack and two weeks before, make sure that they have all of their school supplies, etc.
5. The day before school starts, talk about exactly what will happen the next day…
…to give your child a comfortable mental movie:
“We’ll get up early tomorrow for your first day in Ms. Williams’ class. We will drive there together and I will take you into her classroom and introduce you to her. She will make sure you know all the other children because they will be your new friends. I will read a book to you and then we will hug and say our special goodbye. Then Ms. Williams will take you to the block corner so you can build a tower. Ms. Williams will show you where the bathroom is, and you can ask her anytime you need to go. There will be games and books and blocks, and she will read to the class. You will get to have fun on the playground with the other kids, and you will get to sit at a desk like the big kids. And at the end of the day, Ms. Williams will bring you to me on the school steps, and I will be there to pick you up and hear all about your first day at school.”
Be alert for signs that your child is worried, and reflect that most kids are a little nervous before the first day of school, but that he/she will feel right at home in their new classroom soon. Try to have your child meet a classmate before the first day of school so he/she will already have a friend when school starts. Arrange for your child to walk to school or ride together on the bus with another child in the neighborhood.
- Set up a homeworkstation. Sit down with your child and together designate a time and place where he/she can do their homework each day. This can be somewhere quiet like in the den, or even in the kitchen while you are preparing dinner. Make sure to choose a time where you are available in case your child needs your help.
- Make an after-school game plan. Make a plan for where your child will go after school lets out for the day. Depending upon the age of your child, figure out if they will go to a neighbor’s house, an afterschool program, or be allowed to stay home by themselves. This will help eliminate any confusion during the first few weeks. Find out about after-school activities that your child can join.
With these simple steps in place, you and your child will be fully prepared for starting school. Always feel free to reach out to your adoption service provider or home study social worker if you are in need of additional support during this exciting time in your and your child’s lives!