sweet hope

Monday, August 25, 2014

large__5342575851After a week of school, I feel as though we can breathe again. The house had descended into the depths of chaos in the weeks prior to school starting. There was so much yelling and fighting and crying and mess. And that was just me…

It’s always kind of crazy right before any big transition in our house. The children sense something big is coming, even the ones who don’t understand what it is. Behavior disintegrates. Emotions flare. Tension is high. Add to that one child who had entered the depths of fear-based acting out because of previous trauma, and we were just living on the edge here for a while.

Last year was emotionally traumatic for our kindergartener. His first year of school was not his favorite, by a long shot. He ended the year hating school, disliking his teacher, and feeling so much shame that it took us some weeks to recover. As school began to approach this year, we watched him just fall apart here at home. Finally we sat down, had a big talk complete with tears, and decided that we had to take action before the school year started. We went into last year hoping for the best and reluctant to put any labels on him unless necessary. Unfortunately, not only did we wait too long to step in and when we did, we did so with too much trepidation. His teacher did not seem invested in his success, and I think he fairly quickly got a reputation with her. He developed quite a little chip on his shoulder and assumed the worst from everyone.

This year we didn’t want a repeat of last year, so I spent the summer in prayer for whomever would be teaching his class. Once we found out the name, I emailed and asked if we could meet with her privately before open house. Open houses are busy and loud, and it’s difficult to get appropriate time with any teacher. She readily agreed! I went armed with an introductory letter and a toolkit about educating kids with trauma (found here). HIs teacher was gracious and engaged. She built relationship with him immediately, and above all else, she doesn’t use the simple green-yellow-red card system. She still has a discipline system with colors (which is still not my favorite), but at least you don’t start ‘good’ and then turn ‘bad’. You start the same every day, but then you can move up or down – acknowledgement and praise for good choices, consequences for bad ones. Not only that, but if you happen to move down past just the warning, she then sits with each child individually and helps them to fill out a paper about the choice they made and what a different choice might be that they could use in the future to respond to that situation. EXACTLY the kind of thing our son needs – help with his decision-making. He doesn’t have enough executive function in his brain yet to fully realize how his choices might affect something beyond the moment, so any reinforcement in this area will help his brain develop those connections better. Add to that a teacher that he feels relationship with, and he is set up well for this school year.

He has come home happy from school all week. Something we saw very few days last year. The other day at dinner, when we were telling the highs and lows of our day, the best part of his day was…school! That literally never happened last year. Not one single time was school his favorite part of the day. I have wept with relief and gratitude more than once over the past week. I pray it continues. We’re living on hope around here, and it sure is sweet.

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