As a Family Peer Support Specialist, I often work with families who have children who have challenges in school. I understand that the start of a school year can be particularly stressful, so I want to share some of the tips that have helped my family and those that I work with. These tips range from attitude adjustments to finding resources to practicing packing lunches! The start of the school year is also a good time to reach out to MCF so that we can help prepare your child—and you—for a successful school experience.
- The MCF motto, “you are not alone” applies to your child’s public or private school experience. We at MCF are happy to help or to direct you for support in school navigation, IEP, 504 and MLIP process, needs for assessment, outside educational supports and parent groups.
- If your experience with your child’s school hasn’t been a positive one, keep an open mind and commit to starting the new school year with a fresh perspective. Begin talking to your child about the school year in a positive way – about all they will learn, friends they will make, and fun things they’ll do.
- What you say becomes your child’s inner dialogue. Keep your words encouraging. If you haven’t had success with a staff member or your child has had problems with a classmate before, remember the power that your words have over a child’s mind as they are forming opinions about their new environment. Parents can affect a lot of change in a child by modeling respectful behavior, positive interactions, and keeping adult information among adults.
- Allow your child to buy into the idea of a successful school year. Let them pick out their supplies and maybe a new outfit. If you are reading this and think you could use some help with school supplies, reach out to one of MCF’s Family Peer Support Specialists to see what programs are available in your area. Many communities will provide free backpacks and school supplies, and often we can put you in touch with resources for uniforms, access to free or reduced lunch programs, and help to navigate your child’s transportation needs.
- School-based mental health services are offered in many of Maryland’s schools. Be sure to ask what your district provides regarding mental health services. They might offer 1:1 sessions or help in stressful situations or peer/social skills groups.
- Routines matter, and they take several weeks to establish. Start now to prepare your child for the changes that are about to come with the new school year. Work to get organized with household routines, identify a place to complete homework, and set up a basket or file to put items that need to be signed or reviewed by a parent. You can even practice packing lunches and backpacks and start adjusting the family’s time wake up time.
Take this opportunity to set your family up for success for the new school year. It will be here before you know it!
Rachel Stoyonov, MCF Family Peer Support Specialist