Back to school panic!...who's with me? 7 tips to get off to a good start

Okay....is it just me or is anyone else feeling a little panicky?

It's the last week of summer and I can feel my stomach tightening and my brain starting to swirl as a new school year is upon us.

My older children have turned into pretty good self-advocates so even though I know they will have their struggles, they have learned to ask for what they need to succeed.

My worries are more with my youngest son (Gifted, ADHD) who is going into grade 6. 

Namely:

- Will he stay motivated or get really, really bored

- Will his teacher 'get him' or...

- Will he have a teacher who humiliates and demeans him to put him in his place

- How soon will it be until the calls start from the new (horror, here we go again) principal 

- Will the kids who don't know him like 'his spirit' or...

- Will they be bugged by it

- And how many 'in passing' comments will I hear from judgmental parents (ugg)

I love my son and I wouldn't change a hair on his head. I get him and he is exactly as he should be. But it does demand a lot of effort to keep him motivated and, truthfully, the stress of having to deal with all the judgement from others can get really, really frustrating. 

So if you are a parent with a few worries, what can you do to keep them to a minimum?

Here are a few of my tips from over the years:

1. Make self-actualization your number one focus...always, always talk to your child about how "s/he is built". Discuss what it is that makes him who he is and the wonders and challenges that come with it. Get him to love himself and be okay with his ADHD (LD, OCD or whatever). Emphasize his gifts everyday. Have him understand that others can get annoyed by how he is but that as long as he is being kind, honest and trying his best, then it's their problem, not his. Let him know that "everyone has something"... because it is true. 

2. Meet the teacher sooner rather than later...try to get in to see the teacher the second week. Know that they are busy getting their own things in place, but try to grab 15 minutes. Explain that you want to create a partnership for your child's success. Let her know that you are there to help, and mean it. Work to keep communication open as this will nip any issues in the bud. If getting into the school is difficult, see if weekly "check in" emails are possible. Make sure that she reads your child's IEP (Individual Education Plan) as soon as possible...which leads us to tip 3.

3. Get an IEP in place...if your child is not diagnosed with any particular learning challenge but you have a gut feeling as a parent and have started to see the signs of a struggle, then ask for an "individual education plan" to help your child to have their needs met. Some parents think that you can't get these without a psychological educational assessment (psych ed assessment) ---- well, you can. Work with your school's resource teacher and teacher to get this developed and in place as soon as possible. Then get your child on the list for the psych ed assessment. If you can afford this privately, then get it booked....which leads us to tip 4.

4. Ask for a Psych Ed assessment...if you child has been displaying real signs of falling behind, then ask for a psych ed assessment. These are conducted free through the school board, but the wait time is usually pretty long. If this is your only choice, then get that IEP in place and keep things running smoothly while you wait. If you have insurance then here is my best tip to maximize your coverage -- book the sessions at the end of the calendar year and into the new calendar year. Most insurance plans run "calendar" so you can get your maximum amount for each year but not have a delay between sessions.  Use parent and child amounts to pay for the sessions. for example, the "initial consultation" and "feedback session" can be put in the parent's name and the sessions in the child's. This allows you to use the maximum dollars from the insurance company, (but shhhhh - don't let them know I told you).

5. See if your child can help teach...one of the best things a teacher ever did for my son was to get him to teach. She set him up in a specific location in the classroom and he worked with some of the kids that were struggling in the subjects that he excelled at. This really boosted his self confidence and conquered his boredom. This will be one of the first things I check out this year because it truly worked wonders in getting him out the door in the morning and feeling good about school. 

6. Try to stay friendly with the VP and Principal...I can tell you this has been my hardest task. Like in any profession, there are some who are great and others, not so much. But do what you can to keep the waters running smoothly between you. If your child is prone to the "ready, fire, aim" way of being, then know that the principal is going to need to act. Always advocate for your child but don't become defensive. If you are dealing with someone who is particularly rigid then you might need to become a duck and let some things roll off your back. Remember, it's about supporting your child and this can best be done by keeping conflict to a minimum. 

7. Get into the school whenever you can...staying involved is one of the best ways to keep your finger on the pulse. Drive your child to school a couple of times a month or pick him up. Find times to chat with the admin staff, teacher and resources teacher. Volunteer for field trips and offer to take the group of "spirited kids", including yours of course. (teachers LOVE this!). If you hear kids saying things about your child -  'oh Matt is just so cuckoo' - then respond in a way to make it light - 'Well yes he is, but he sure keeps things fun!' Showing support to your child in front of peers is very important and helps them to see the good.

 

If there is one tip out of this group you should focus on -  it's self-acceptance. Nothing is more important. Going back to school can be a scary but also rewarding experience. Help your child to find peace and happiness in their own skin. This they can carry with them wherever they go. 

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Judy Mouland loves to challenge the status quo and chip away at the word ‘normal.’  Over the years, she has learned to embrace and use her own quirky brain to succeed and is passionate about the power of self-awareness. She became a CTI(Coaches Training Institute) Life Coach for people with ADHD, LD, OCD, aspergers, autism and other conditions after serving for 25+ years in local, national and international settings, most recently as the C.E.O. of the Learning Disabilities Association of Canada. She works to empower her clients to live life on their own terms - no excuses - and to uncover their brilliance so they can shine. She is aTrueTilt Certified Practitioner, a team member at Psychological Services Associates (PSA Ottawaand a member of the International Coaches Federation. She advises team leaders and senior management on how to create truly meaningful accommodations in the workplace. She also freely admits that most everything she knows she has learned from her exceptional children, who never let her brain become idle.  You can write to Judy at judymouland@gmail.com and her empowering blog posts can be found at: www.judymouland.com/blog