It’s back to school time! For many kids in care, the beginning of a new school year can be a very stressful time, filled with major changes. We heard from TEACHaR program worker Jo, who has some helpful tips for our foster carers and how they can ensure the transition to a new school year is seamless.
Make sure there is as little stress at home of the first morning as possible. Helpful tips include having the uniform laid out, bag packed, and lunchbox filled with food you know your child will like. Some foster carers write a little note to the child and leave it their lunchbox to find during the day which can be beautiful. This provides reassurance that the foster carer is thinking about them.
If possible visit the school prior to school starting and have a play on the equipment:
Let the child show you which room they will be in (if they know). Try the drink taps, make a meeting spot for the end of the day, and even have fun practicing to line up to go in to class. For primary age children this will make the first day feel a bit more familiar.
For secondary age kids, ensure that they knew how to get their class, where to meet you at the end of the day and if they need assistance to navigate their way around the school.
Make sure the foster child is familiar with their new teacher:
Ideally foster children will have met their new teacher and have seen the class they will be in. This is something we insist for the clients we are working with. We then have a photo of the teacher that the child puts somewhere like the fridge and it becomes a familiar face. If not, you can often find staff photos on their websites and you could have a look together.
If you haven’t met the teacher before you can email them the day before school goes back with some tips on what supports your foster child the best.
Plan a nice dinner for the end of the first day:
At the end of the day it is nice to have a calm activity or meal need that the child likes. They can then think about that during the day knowing they will have spaghetti bolognaise or whatever is comforting to them when they get home.
We have found foster children to be very aware of the emotional state of the adults around them. No matter how anxious we are feeling we need to ensure that we appear calm and positive or else they may escalate to match your emotion.