Starting a new school year can be challenging for your foster child. Many kids in foster care have had a difficult time in school and starting a new school year can stir up a lot of negative thoughts and feelings. Prior to entering care your son or daughter may have had erratic attendance. Or, they may have lived in circumstances which made being at school hard. They may have moved frequently and had to adjust often to a new school.
Unfortunately, the process of coming into foster care often means another school change. As a concerned foster parent there are things you can do to help prepare your foster child for some of the “bumps” they may encounter as a new student.
Help them prepare for the inevitable questions such as “Why don’t you live with your parents?” and “Why are you starting school in the middle of the year?” Ask them about how they might handle such questions and, as necessary, help them come up ways of responding which are comfortable for them.
This may be a good time to discuss the difference between “keeping secrets” and their right to share private information selectively. Help them develop an “elevator speech”, a brief and stock response to the difficult questions they may be asked. Offer to rehearse it with them until it feels natural to them.
Having a plan in place to prevent melt downs in school may be of help to your foster child. They may benefit from having a special contact person they can turn to in school if they are having a bad day. Especially in a new school, it can help to have an identified person who knows something about their circumstances and can make time for them when they need some extra support.
Work with your school and foster child to identify who that will be and what the process will be for connecting with that special person. Just knowing that there is someone they can turn to if they are feeling stressed-out may help them get through a difficult school day.
Remember that your interest and support will help your foster child succeed in school. There are bound to be bumps in the road, but entering a new school also offers an opportunity for positive experiences.
Watch for our next blog post, which will have tips that are specific to different age groups.