Duncan Elliot is a life coach working out of Basingstoke in England. He particularly works with people who feel that there must be more to life and are willing to work at it, so that they can feel happier and more in control of their life. He offers life coaching in person, on the phone or via audio or video across the Internet. Click here to contact him.
Catch the wind in your sails!
Education is a HUGE part of a child's life. Children can be in school for seven or more hours a day, and then you add in getting ready in the morning, coming home and transitioning. That can make nine hours a day, five days a week, even without homework.
Forty-five hours a week is a significant part of a child's life and it will affect them.
For some kids, school is a positive experience. For those for whom that is not the case, forty-five hours a week is a long, long time! And children who have suffered trauma often find school very difficult. They have issues with separation anxiety, fear, control, relationships and sensory overstimulation due to the noise and chaos. Often their background means that they have learning difficulties, sometimes quite subtle, and verbal processing issues. This is just the start of a VERY long list of potential issues!
The adoptive parents that I've come across work really hard on the roots of many of these issues, trying to support and build up their kids. Unfortunately if school don't come on board, their hard work can be knocked back or even destroyed completely. Nancy Thomas, in her “Captive in the Classroom” video, commented that they had “lost” a number of children because school didn't come on board.
When the school doesn't come on board, we have potentially a big, big issue.
I have worked with adopters who have struggled with school for months, or even years. They are regularly asked, “can we have a quick word with you, please?” and endure the “walk of shame” as the other parents watch you trot off to the classroom. The teacher then appears to blame you for your child's behaviour and lectures you on your parenting. You try to give them strategies or point them to resources and they are dismissive and condescending. They are the professionals: you are only the parent – and, in their eyes, an inadequate one, at that.
Others refuse to accept that there are issues. It is amazing how some traumatised kids can exhibit truly bizarre behaviours and teachers still don't accept that there is a problem. One parent reported to me that they were in such a meeting. The educational advisor, who had been a teacher and head for a long time, spoke up. “I've been working in schools for thirty-five years and I've NEVER heard a child say something like that. Do you really think that it's normal behaviour?” The difficulty is that if the school doesn't accept that there is a problem, they aren't going to implement a solution.
Another issue is that, in my country, the whole system can be against them. Children have to be incredibly far behind before it's recognised that they need special help, by which time it can be too late. We parents can end up fighting and fighting to get the support and assessments that we can see that our child needs but with no success.
The result can be parents and teachers at loggerheads. Both can feel battered by the other and they can both take up entrenched positions. It is very easy for the issue to move away from “how do we help this child” to the relationship between the parent and the teacher and school.
The question is, “what should I do?”
Einstein said that doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results is the definition of madness. Unfortunately it's all too easy to do that! Week after week we're banging on the head teacher's door, asking for them to change the way that they do things and getting nowhere. If that's you, then you need to stop doing it and consider your options.
One option is to change your communication. Are you talking to the right person? In the right way? Is there anyone else who could communicate with them in a way that they could hear?
Another is to change schools. If your child's needs aren't getting met in their current school, then is there another where their needs could be met? Would they do better in a special school, for example? And I know, from experience, that it can be incredibly hard to accept that that's the case. For us, it was really harrowing to look at our child's issues and to recognise how large and wide-ranging they were.
An extreme, and often overlooked option, is home education. For many kids who have endured early trauma, schools are incredibly scary places. If they have hyper-vigilance, for example, their brain is going to be in overdrive keeping track of large numbers of kids, teachers, assistants and people who wander past in the corridors. They're also going to be tracking objects. One of mine could, at any time, tell you EXACTLY where every singe pair of scissors was in the classroom. With their brain whirling away keeping track of all of these things, they're unlikely to be paying much attention to spelling or times tables: they simply don't have the capacity.
You also need to look at your own stress levels.If school is causing you stress, you may find it very difficult to think clearly about the situation.The stress chemicals coursing through our bodies mean that we use the primitive parts of the brain used for responding to threat and danger, rather than the higher, logical parts.Without those functioning well, it can be extremely difficult to evaluate the situation as you need to.
So if your child is struggling in education, the big issue is what to do to improve the situation. Unfortunately the decision is rarely easy and straightforward, which is where coaching comes in. I can work with you to talk through the issues, challenge your thinking, help you manage your stress and come up with creative solutions. Contact me to discuss how I can work with you to improve this incredibly important aspect of your life.
I have also done presentations to teachers about the impacts and implications of early trauma. Again, contact me if that is something that could benefit you.