First, you need to buy all the school supplies (if you have not misplaced the list), including the all too important backpack. Then, there are the school clothes, shoes, sneakers, boots, and sports equipment. If your child has special needs, you may have even more items to buy. Depending on the age of your child, there may be lockers to decorate and books to purchase. Shopping and gathering all these items is time consuming and expensive. The entire process can be exhausting and stressful. It is so important to try not to let all of these tasks get the better of you, and to keep the focus on your child in a positive way. If you are stressed out, your child will be, too.
Before your child starts school, there are fears of the unknown. The anxiety may keep your little one up at night. Then, once your child starts school, there is the huge adjustment that comes with getting used to a new teacher, new faces in the classroom and a new routine. Little things as simple as a different kind of chair, lights, sounds and smells may bother your child and cause upset. Getting yanked into a whole new environment can be incredibly unnerving to any child, but it is especially difficult for a child with special needs.
Adding to the overall stress of returning to school, is the challenge of figuring out what actually happens during the school day. One of my kids had a teacher who told parents “I will only believe half of what your child tells me about you, if you believe half of what your child tells you about school.” At first I found it somewhat alarming, but then I realized it reminded me of the game of telephone. The more a message gets passed on, the more the message changes.
As your child becomes acquainted with the new school routine, he may come home and tell you information that is slightly incorrect. Or, he may tell you absolutely nothing. (Often, just getting through a school day from beginning to end is a monumental feat for a child with special needs, and once home, the last thing he wants to do is talk about his day. Rather, quiet time is the preferred escape.) If you need to know specific information, consider emailing the teacher or the Class Parent because your child may be too overwhelmed to tell you the information you seek. And, if he does talk about his day, you may not get all the facts you need to answer your question.
If you think that you are the only parent who finds back-to-school tasks stressful and overwhelming at times, you are not alone. But, the important thing to remember is that as stressed as you are, your child is much more stressed. Try to keep a cheerful perspective and know that in time your child will adjust to the new routine, and so will you. With a little luck, you may both grow to love this new year, too.
Note: This post is part of the weekly series Delays and disabilities – how to get help for your child. It was started in January 2013 and appears every Wednesday. Go to News Moms Need and click on “Help for your child” on the menu on the right side to view all of the blog posts to date. As always, we welcome your comments and input.
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