Every summer, the lazy days seem to fly by and before we know it- the start of school approaches. For many parents, this is a good thing. They are ready to get themselves and their children ‘back on schedule.’ Yet, for foster children this is often a hard time of year. Many of them struggle in school- they do not enjoy the idea of sitting in a classroom for hours every day. They meet the concept of school with negative behaviors. How can a parent make this time easier for the child who struggles?
Of greatest importance is establishing the importance of school attendance and performance. Each child must work through the issue of not wanting to participate in learning activities after a summer that is full of fun and entertaining activities. I know many parents who encourage their children in their academics by spending time shopping for the appropriate materials. They help to refocus the child by giving time and attention to picking the perfect backpack, selecting the required school supplies and replenishing the sock drawer- if you will.
These are all great ways to help a child to shift their thinking back to academia. Other ways to help a child is to talk about the upcoming school year. Find out if they do have fears and where they are stemming from. Brainstorm with the child as to ways that the two of you can fix the issues before the first day of school. If you aren’t already, begin to read to the child again. Help them to get comfortable receiving information from a written source as opposed to electronic. This is a difficult transition for many children because they have spent their summers engaged in television and video gaming activities. To make the switch back to formal education can be frustrating if groundwork is not in place.
Another consideration for the foster child in particular is the meeting of a new teacher. This can be very stressful. Many of the children from foster care have had difficult times in their lives in regard to people. They are not comfortable in new situations and do not trust easily. If there is a way to get the child into a classroom that has a teacher they have met, pursue it. If that is not a possibility, consider trying to arrange a meeting between the child and the teacher ahead of time. This will help the child to gain confidence.
The trauma in their lives that have settled them into the foster care system often leaves major emotional issues that should be dealt with before the school year begins. By preparing a child for the upcoming return to school, they have a greater chance for success. That success is crucial in the life of any child but especially one whose confidence has been shaken.