If your child has an attachment disorder or struggles with other mental health, behavioral or emotional issues, the start of the 2020-21 school year presents challenges like no other.
At least 35 of the nation’s 50 largest school districts have opted to educate students remotely this fall due to the continuing uncertainties about COVID-19 and the safety of in-person school. For children who rely on school services for mental health and behavioral supports, this means a loss of critical resources. For parents and caregivers, it creates additional barriers to getting their children the help they need to succeed.
During the best of times, parents and caregivers of children with attachment issues have to be strong and dynamic advocates, partnering closely with educators, schools and mental health and child welfare professionals. Now, as communication with teachers and schools has moved to strictly online, building close partnerships may look a little different, but the same principles still apply.
Work together to
- focus on and foster your child’s strengths;
- establish routines for home and school time;
- develop clear expectations;
- discover innovative online resources for your child.
Be assertive. Make sure the school understands your child’s academic, social and emotional challenges and takes appropriate action. Do so without being aggressive, angry, and alienating school personnel.
Provide information. Give the teacher enough information about your child’s background so he or she understands the special needs and challenges. Regarding confidentiality, the details of past events are less important than how your child is affected.
Foster relationships. Build a relationship with your child’s teacher now, rather waiting for a problem or a crisis.
Communicate regularly. Talk frequently with your child’s teacher about both positives and negatives. Discuss discipline with the teacher — consistent, firm, caring and consequence-driven approaches work best.
Promote understanding. Help the teacher understand that your child’s learning difficulties may be associated with a lack of stability and security — such as moves, losses, grief and uncertainties about the future. Their struggles are not necessarily learning disabilities or lack of intelligence. Increase awareness about your child’s school history.
Accentuate success. Help the teacher encourage your child’s success in areas of competence.
Provide resources. Share books, websites, educational opportunities and activities, and other resources to help the teacher and others learn about attachment, foster care, adoption and related issues.
Be respectful. Don’t forget, school personnel are probably feeling very taxed this fall by all the changes and adjustments they have had to make. Be respectful of the teacher’s position, many responsibilities, and other children in the class with special needs. Help the teacher see you as a resource who offers to help, not someone who is demanding.
Know your role. Leave the teaching and learning assignments to the teacher and child (but be willing to jump in when needed). You are an advocate for your child — but not a “police officer” regarding homework and grades.