This year all three of my kids will be in school. I have a 7th grader, 6th grader, and a Pre-Ker. All of my kids are making some type of transition this year. My 7th grader turns 13 in September. She is moving from childhood to teen years and I am not sure I am ready. My 6th grader is starting middle school and my Pre-Ker is going to school for the first time ever. Oh and for the first time in 4 ½ years I do not have a child on my hip.
My 4 year old had a rough first week. His behavior was fine, but he missed me. He was really weepy and out of sorts. I see the conflict, he loves playing, but he misses being able to crawl in my lap for comfort when he is uncertain. If this were my first go round I might feel like I need to hover and maybe I would wonder if he is ready. As an experienced mom I drop off and go. I know he is ready and it is fear of the unknown and new things that creates his stress, but I know his teacher. She taught my older two. She has known me for 9 years and I know for a fact he is in great hands. I know he will be loved and cared for by the school’s teachers, staff and administration. His discomfort is temporary. As I start this journey it occurs to me how important it is to allow our kids experience discomfort and even a reasonable amount of fear. Uncertainty is part of life. Trying new things and overcoming fear and anxiety is integral to success.
I find when dealing with my ADHD kids it is really easy to try to unnecessarily ease transitions. Yes, there is a need to make sure that transitions are particularly smooth for kids with learning differences, but they also need to stumble like any other kid. There is a sense of accomplishment and resilience when you overcome obstacles on your own. It is healthy to know when to ask for help, but is just as healthy to know if no one helps you can make it. There is also a selfish reason to help a little too much. When a kid with ADHD or other challenges gets too frustrated you may be looking at some type of meltdown or shutdown. It may not come in the form of a temper tantrum on the floor but they get quite creative as they get older. My daughter, for example, decided to take a school work vacation last year. If you have not gotten to middle school as a parent yet, or if your kids are up and grown and you do not remember, they strongly encourage parents to take a step back and let the kids sink or swim. I stepped back, she sank like a rock. Well maybe not a rock, more like a boat taking on water. It was slow, but she was on her way to the bottom. I talked to her homeroom teacher and we had a meeting with all of the teachers, and my daughter. They took the time to explain to her their concerns and discussed solutions. Her work improved greatly. She took ownership of her work and steadily improved through the rest of the year. If you are wondering, she was overwhelmed and too proud to ask me or her teachers for help. The meeting helped her to understand the teachers expected her to need help and asking was a good thing. They explained it was part of the learning process, and it worked.
I think having the kids learn how to take ownership of their specific needs and ask for help is an integral part of parenting in general, but particularly important for kids who have learning differences. The school started bringing my daughter in on her accommodation meetings at the end of last year. She can voice how she feels about the different accommodations being offered and the teachers can ask her questions about what she needs. We had a new school year meeting with all of her teachers, my daughter and myself. I sat pretty much silent as they addressed her directly and explained what she was entitled to and why they were offering what they were offering. She did not talk much, but this is a great way for her to learn how to advocate for herself. One of my biggest fears is for her to go away to college and not advocate for what she needs. Starting the process of teaching her how to advocate now eases those fears.
Last, but not least my middle child. I saved him for last because he is often the main subject of my blogs since he has the most challenges. He was dreading starting middle school. Much of the dread is gone. I am excited for him to start middle school. They do several things differently that I think will work great for him. Middle schoolers use surfaces for all of their work. My son does much better using electronic mediums instead of pen and paper. They take tests online and many of the books they use are electronic. I think this transition will help him a lot. Also, they change classes every 45 minutes so he does not have time to get too bored, before he is off to the next class. Learning is also much more hands on. There is less lecture and more application with a project based focus. I asked him what his favorite class was and he said science. I was confused for a minute and then I remembered their science is lab based. He will get to see many of the scientific concepts he is studying in action. He is such a visual learner that is right up his ally.
Overall, I am excited about all the transitions and new beginnings we are facing this year. I think this year has the potential to be phenomenal. I hope my kids enjoy every minute of it.
BLACK ADHD MOM