Sunday, September 5, 2010

Back To School Jitters and Bullies

 B.C. and Molly in a morning sunbeam - nobody relaxes like a cat.

Both of our kids are going through the back-to-school jitters, and it's something that will just have to work itself out with time.  Our daughter is nervous because she's never been in public school before - it's all new and a bit scary to her.  She's been talking about it quite a bit the past couple days, and we've reassured her as much as we can that it's going to be okay.  Not perfect, but okay.  I'm hoping her first week goes well, and we've been praying with her at night to that effect, because the Lord cares about the lives of his children, of all ages.

Our son is equally nervous about his return to school.  He has memories of his only year in public school, during what was called "early kindergarten" in our old district.  It was during that year that he was diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome (mild high-functioning autism).  He enjoyed some aspects of that experience, but really internalized some deep fears as well (of bullies, and of fire alarms).  Even though I know this new year will be totally unlike what he experienced as a 5 year old, he only has his memories to go on for reference, and he's been perseverating on it.  Although he's been in to tour the school and meet his teachers, and he's found out his best friend from Scouts will also be in his home room and some of his classes, he's still fretting over all the changes to come.

We've tried to prepare the kids for what is coming, doing everything from just talking about it, to visiting the schools and meeting the teachers, from buying everything on their classroom supply lists to discussing the new routines and house rules for bedtimes and video privileges, from haircuts to new shoes and clothes.  I don't know that preparing a child with AS is much different than preparing a typical child for school, except that we are careful to clearly outline as much as possible what will happen during the mornings and days that first day and week.  Both kids are worried they'll miss their alarms (I reassured them that we'll make sure they get up on time).  Both kids are uneasy about riding the bus to school (we've told them that they'll get used to it, and find friends to sit with; our son will have an assigned seat near the front of the bus, at least until he gets used to the routine and the kids).  Both kids have definite ideas about what they want to wear the first day (no problem, as long as it's appropriate for the weather).  Our daughter already knows what desk she'll be sitting at (she got to choose it at her school's open house last week).  Our son knows he will have his own cubby to keep his personal stuff in, but not a permanently assigned desk. 

Both of our kids are concerned about teasing and bullying.  I suppose it's a rare kid who isn't, but some kids are naturally more easygoing than others.  Mine are both a bit on the uptight/control freak side of the spectrum, so they worry.  And, our son has experienced bullying in his only public school year, so he's held on to that fear, and we've been talking about it with him, and mentioned his concern to his teachers and his school psychologist.  Bullying is something at almost everyone has to deal with at one time or another, so we hope to help them both navigate those waters as issues occur.  Our son is likely to be a bully-magnet, given his social skills deficits, his emotional immaturity, and his physical size (he's extremely tall for his age, and slightly overweight).  Hopefully we can work with the school to prevent any major crises.

I was chronically bullied in school as a kid, and my heart breaks to think of my own children going through what I went through.  But, I think schools now have far less tolerance and far more help for kids who have been targeted by bullies than they did when I was their age 30 years ago.  You can bet I'll be vigilant to see that any problems that I'm aware of aren't left to fester and hurt my kids.  Bullying and teasing happens in everyone's life, but it doesn't need to be an ongoing trauma.  I'm pretty easygoing as a parent, and willing to be flexible in working with my kids' teachers, but this is one issue that will bring out the mama bear in me.

Or, to show my total retro-80s roots, "Pity da fool!" - who messes with my kids.

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