Tips to Help Your Adopted Child with Trauma and Their Educators Get Ready for a New School Year

Change can be hard for children with trauma, even the change that a new school year brings. As with anything having to do with your adopted child with trauma, it’s key to have a plan to help your child and others prepare for the school year ahead and the changes that come with it. Remember that one size does not fit all, so tailor these tips to your child’s personality and needs. 

Ease the Transition

Begin to ease the transition early. Think of this like the “2 minute warning” you might give that dinner is about to be served and that it is time to clean up the toys. Talk to your child about the start of a new school year. Consider keeping a calendar to help your child be prepared. Circle the first day of school on the calendar for your child and cross off the days as they go by so that even young children can get an idea of the passage of time and how close or far away the first day of school is. 

If your child is willing, speak to them about how they are feeling about a new school year, especially after the tumultuous year that was the 2020/2021 school year. If they have concerns, be sure to help allay those fears. Be sure to help them remember any coping skills they need to get them through stressful times. 

Consistency is Key

Having a consistent routine is helpful for any child with trauma. And even though you likely still keep things structured during summer to help your adopted child with trauma, summer might be different from the rest of the year. So help your child get back into the routine of the school year. For example, this may include waking up at the time they would need to for school and getting ready for the day. 

Provide Choice

Going back to school always comes with the inevitable supply list. If your child is struggling with the lack of control they may feel about going back to school, help them feel more in control by providing them choices on their school supplies. Let your child pick out the color of their notebook, folders, whether they want 16 or 64 crayons, and so on. 

Speak with and Prepare Educators

One of the most important things you can do during this time is to help prepare new educators that will be working with your child. Child trauma is counterintuitive to most educators, so they will need your coaching, support and communication. Be sure to educate them on the fact that trauma is a real brain injury. Prepare them that your child may behave several years younger than their age, and that this is normal for children with trauma.

Be sure that everyone is on board with the care and education plan that is needed to help your child succeed, including school staff, teachers and counselors. Remember that you know your child best, so don’t let anyone tell you where your child should be developmentally. Remind or educate these professionals that what works for most children when it comes to discipline may actually re-traumatize your child. Give these professionals ways to help your child during the school day, such as easing transitions (e.g. “2 minutes until recess”), allowing your child to feel they have some control by offering opportunities for choice (e.g. choice of a book to read) plus any other information that you may find helpful for your unique child. 

Offer Love and Support

Finally, be sure to continue to offer the same unconditional love and support to your child. Be sure to also educate any new school professionals for the school year that your child experienced a loss of trust from the adults in their life and that your child needs to feel they can trust them and feel safe with them, and that helping your child feel safe will take time, love and support on their part as well.