The line between your family’s privacy and the things schools need to know can sometimes be a fine one.
Social stigma is a terrible thing, and if you and your child have been on the receiving end of others’ harsh judgements in the past, it’s understandable that trusting strangers with intensely personal information about your son or daughter might be difficult.
Having said that, teachers and schools can’t help your child if they don’t have the information they need to give the assistance you are expecting from them.
If your sensitive child has unique needs and is heading off to school soon, now might be the time to talk to teachers there so that the right support is in place from day one.
You could be forgiven for assuming that, because primary school teachers have helped so many little kids start school, your child’s teachers will automatically know what to do and how to cater for your child’s unique needs next year.
But if the principal doesn’t know that your child suffers with anxiety or is diagnosed with autism or ADHD, how can he or she allocate extra teacher resources to the classroom or playground to support your child?
If they don’t know that your child has experienced a bereavement, family breakup or other difficult domestic situations, how will the school counsellor know that they might need to reach out to you to see if there is an extra support that your child needs?
If your child is gifted, how can the school offer extension or acceleration classes if you haven’t provided them with documentation outlining your child’s learning differences?
Equally, if your child has identified learning, language or sensory difficulties, how can the Learning Support Teacher make sure your child is included in his or her timetable if you are not forthcoming with information about your child’s unique needs before school begins?
It’s hard to talk to strangers about the things that make our children vulnerable. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve cried in meetings with teachers, principals and other professionals, and I still choke up when I think or talk about the challenges my son faced during his school journey.
As parents, we get emotional.
It’s natural and normal to get upset when you have to explain the hurts your child has, and we worry that we might appear weak, or that the school might get the wrong idea about us too.
But the bottom line is that, if we don’t tell the school what is going on for our child, we really don’t have the right to expect that they will work it out for themselves.
By not telling teachers about your child’s unique needs, you actually make it harder for them to do their jobs.
Keeping quiet about challenges means that your child might struggle needlessly, or be placed in situations that will lead to meltdowns and misunderstandings.
If you have a gifted child, don’t you want him or her to have the teacher who has a special interest in this area of education?
If you have a child with a disability, don’t you want the school to apply for funding or extra resources so that they are in place on day one?
If your child has had a tough couple of years, don’t you want your son or daughter to have access to extra support and understanding?
If your child has unique needs, be brave and have the conversation.
Your sensitive child does not have to wear a label for all to see, and you can request that this information be kept confidential, but teachers value your candour and your trust in them.
If you start your relationship with your child’s school in an open and honest way, you have the best chance of building a collaborative partnership that is in everyone’s interest, including your child’s.
Written by Sonja Walker
© 2018 Kids First Children’s Services
The article above is an excerpt from SCHOOL READY: A practical and supportive guide for parents with sensitive kids by Kids First founder, teacher and best-selling author Sonja Walker.