Navigating School Challenges With Children Who Have Experienced Trauma

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With the holiday season in full stride, it won’t be long before our kids will head back to school. Perhaps for you, this school year has been filled with challenges for your children. Have you ever wondered how to adequately express those issues to your child’s teacher or principal? Today, on the show, we explore some strategies.

Mike and Kristin were recently interviewed by our good friend, Jami Kaeb from The Forgotten Initiative Podcast on how to navigate school challenges with children who have experienced significant trauma. In this replay, they offer practical advice to help parents navigate the challenges their children experience at school.

Listen Now:

Notes and Quotes:

[shareable cite=”Mike Berry”]If you go in crazy, crazy is all they’re going to see.  The reality with your kid will get lost in that, because now a teacher, and a guidance counselor, and a principal… they’re dealing with a crazy parent…they can’t even get to the issue at hand.[/shareable]

Why is school a challenge for kids from trauma?
  • Anything can be a trigger for kids from trauma.
  • Some things, in a very typical school day, will just be too much for a child from trauma.
  • There are many things below the surface that you cannot see.
A couple of challenging times to be aware of:
  • Transition times, like before and after holidays
  • Beginning of the school year.  It can be tricky to figure out who the teacher is, their understanding of trauma, how much information to share

[shareable cite=”Kristin Berry”]Every year we have to come up with this balance between what is an appropriate amount of communication and what is not.[/shareable]

How to offer a “heads up” to teachers:
  • “Head’s up!  My son was adopted.  I just want to let you know that he went through quite a bit of trauma when he was younger.  Here’s a couple things to watch for but if you are having a great year, awesome.”
  • “Hey, my child had to cope by being endearing/cute/sneaky.  If you notice anything like that, can you just let me know?”
  • Have a beginning conversation that gives enough information to let teachers know what to watch for and when you would like to be contacted about certain behaviors.
  • You don’t have to tell them ALL of it, but be proactive in helping the teachers to understand your child and their special circumstances.
How can we work well with teachers and administrators?
  • Get to know the teachers and administrators on a personal level.
  • Own your actions.  Apologize if you need to.
  • Remember that no professional wants to be called out and made to feel stupid.
  • Keep your emotions in check in meetings with teachers and administrators.
  • Find a sounding board/friend to talk it out and then narrow down what you need to go in a share.
  • Communication is key.  Deal with conflicts and issues as they arise.
  • Remember that everyone is on the same team.
What Parents Can do to Help their Children Succeed
  • Know what your role is.
  • Take on a position of observance over teaching.
  • Ask yourself what you want your kids to succeed in.  Character matters more than achievement.
  • Focus in on what truly matters, which is the heart.
  • Create a space where your child knows they are delighted in.
  • Scorn, shame, and lecturing won’t work. Check out How to Correct Your Child Without Shaming
  • Don’t be embarrassed because of your kids and let your own shame affect how you treat your child.
How do you advocate for your kids with school projects that bring up shame and loss, such as “bring in your baby pictures?”
  • First, stay in communication with the teacher.
  • Stay calm.
  • Communicate about feelings with your children.  Acknowledge feelings and help them work through it.
  • View the tricky projects as an opportunity to learn to work through emotions.
Dealing with the holidays:
  • Proactively let the teachers know this may be a hard season.  Communicate.
  • Set appropriate boundaries.  You may have to avoid some things like the classroom holiday parties.
  • Cut out certain events.  Too much is just too much.
  • Stand your ground but also be willing to compromise.
  • Make your own “ideal.”  It may look different than what others do or what you thought your expectations were.
  • What will my child remember?  What is going to make this a really good holiday season.
The Main Things To Remember:

Communicate with grace and remember: It’s O.K. to not be O.K.  Everyone is not going to get all of this parenting thing right.  There are wins and losses.  We are all going to make mistakes.  Get up and move forward.

[shareable cite=”Mike Berry”]You either fail backwards or you fail forward.  The point is you are going to fail.  Which one are you going to do?  Are you going to fail backwards or forwards?  You have that choice.  No one failure is the end of the game for anyone.[/shareable]

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Navigating School Challenges With Children Who Have Experienced Trauma

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Mike and Kristin Berry are the Co-Founders of The Honestly Adoption Company and have been parents for nearly two decades. They are the authors of six books, and the host of The Honestly Adoption Podcast.

Sarah Gray

Sarah Gray is the executive assistant to Mike and Kristin Berry. And she is the best in the land. In addition to providing a warm and friendly response to the many emails our company receives on a weekly basis, she also manages Mike and Kristin’s speaking and meeting schedules, and makes sure that team events go off without a hitch.

Nicole Goerges

Nicole Goerges is a Content Contributor & Special Consultant for The Honestly Adoption Company. She works with Mike and Kristin as a recurring co-host for the Honestly Adoption Podcast, and co-host of Kitchen Table Talks, exclusive video content for Oasis Community, along with Kristin. She is a fellow adoptive mom, and former foster parent.

Matt McCarrick

Matt McCarrick is the Content Production Specialist for The Honestly Adoption Company. If you’ve loved listening to our podcast, or enjoyed any of the videos trainings we’ve published, you have Matt to thank. He oversees all of our content production, from video edits, to making sure the tags are correct on YouTube, to uploading new videos to Oasis, to hitting publish on a podcast episode, he’s a content wonder!

Karen Anderson

Karen Anderson is the Community Engagement Specialist for The Honestly Adoption Company. She spends the bulk of her time interacting with, and helping, people through our various social media channels, as well as providing support for Oasis Community members through chat support or Zoom calls. In the same spirit as Beaver, Karen is also passionate about connecting with parents and making them feel loved and supported. Karen is also an FASD trainer and travels often, equipping and encouraging parents.

Beaver Trumble

Beaver Trumble is the Customer Care Specialist for The Honestly Adoption Company. Chances are, if you have been in need of technical support, or forgotten your password to one of our courses, you have interacted with Beaver. He is an absolute pro at customer care. In fact, he single-handedly revolutionized our customer care department last year. Beaver is passionate about connecting with parents and making them feel loved and encouraged.

Kristin Berry

Kristin Berry is the co-founder of, and Chief Content Specialist for, The Honestly Adoption Company. She spends most of her time researching and connecting with guests for our podcast, as well as direction, designing and publishing a lot of the content for our social media channels, blog and podcast. She loves to connect with fellow parents around the world, and share the message of hope with them.

Mike Berry

Mike Berry is the co-founder of, and Chief Marketing Specialist for, The Honestly Adoption Company. He spends the bulk of his time and energy designing and building many of the resources you see within our company, as well as social media and email campaigns. His goal is to use media as a means to encourage and equip parents around the world. He is also the co-host of The Honestly Adoption Podcast.