Look Beneath Your Adopted & Foster Child’s Smile on the First Day of School
Parents, when the first day of school comes and the big yellow bus pulls up, I bet you’ll have a huge lump in your throat.
Yes, summer was hectic, but in a good way. Am I not right? You’ve probably been busier than a one-armed paperhanger getting everything ready to send your child off, but it’s all good for that kid you adore.
Who was it that said, “Parenting is a lifetime of letting go?” In my seventh decade of life, I am still letting go as a mom and Mimi.
Hey, there’s something I’ve gotta share with you before that first day of school.
It’s something that most parents don’t know. It’s not talked about in your training by social workers, yet it is incredibly real for adopted and foster children when entering new situations.
I know…because I am an adopted person.
And, because I know, I want you to know. You and your children are my passion. I want you to be as connected and close as is humanly possible.
Decades ago, on my first day of second grade, we drove to the Kirvan’s house for an official photo of all us neighborhood kids.
I am the smiley one on the far right, with the front teeth missing.
A picture of confidence, right? It looks like I could hardly wait to meet my new teacher and classmates.
Looking Beneath the Smile
However, beneath the big smile is panic and fear of new places. New situations. New people.
Looking back, my thoughts would have been like this:
- What will my teacher be like?
- Will she know that I was adopted, or that I am a foster kid?
- Where will I sit?
- Will there be a place for me?
- What will the kids be like?
- Will my teacher find out I’m not very smart?
- Will I be able to not get mad?
- Will I be able to not have a meltdown?
Parents, going into a strange, new place is a huge trigger for your adopted or foster child. New places make our hearts beat fast and our mouths get dry, like cotton. Our bodies may tense as we go to our “happy place” (numbed out).
Personally, every new situation feels like I’ve been thrown in the deep end of the pool, with no swimming skills. My adoption, marriage, mothering, grand mothering, etc.
What Parents Can Do
So, what can a parent do? You probably feel helpless, but you’re not.
First, talk. Talk openly and directly to your child about possible fears. Use my list if you like, for a springboard. Your child wants you to ask. Be proactive!
Second, affirm, affirm, affirm any emotion or statement your child makes. Validate her emotional reality. “It’s alright that you feel so scared.”
Third, become your child’s number one cheerleader in life. Study him like a precious jewel so that you can storm heaven’s gates on his behalf. And, let him know you’re doing this for him.
And, forth…assure your child that God will turn that fear into faith. Teach her that those with the greatest fears have the deepest potential for faith.
I’ll be thinking of you in the days ahead, parents.