Helping our children with schoolwork is a challenge. We can quickly find ourselves lost in the middle of one power struggle after another. Overwhelm, frustration, uncertainty and panic have left me throwing my hands in the air and wanting to quit. Only I know I can’t quit. I can’t quit on myself and I can’t quit on them…
The pandemic has left all of us, at some point, with the assignment of teaching our children from home… for some, this has been a mild inconvenience, while for others, it has been a serious strain. I am a teacher at my core. I love to teach, but there are several factors that have made this particular teaching assignment strenuous, and today I want to focus on 2 of those factors.
First, I want to remind us all that teaching our own children, whether they are biological , fostered or adopted, is a totally different ballgame than teaching other people’s children in a classroom setting. The Parent/child relationship brings with it its own set of dynamics that definitely add to the challenge of teaching, especially when there is unprocessed trauma involved. We are often not aware of these dynamics until they have created quite a mess. Sometimes, we might need to stop focusing on the schoolwork and focus on what, in our home, we call “the dance” we’ve stepped into with our children. This will require some self reflection on our part, but it’s necessary so that we can change the music and move back into a more productive space where learning can take place.
Secondly, we need to remember that trauma affects learning. When we study child development, we learn that in the first 12 months of life babies develop the foundation of language and that the first 3 years of life are critical periods of development for speech and language. This should help us understand why trying to teach a child second grade work, just because they are eight years old and in the second grade, may be counter productive. Think of teaching a child like you would build a scaffold. You can’t teach a new set of skills unless you have built the foundation for those new skills. This means we may need to help our children go back and bridge the gaps. For me, this has meant supplementing my child’s school education at home in the evenings and during summers. The more confidence we can build, the less problems we’re going to have in schooling. The problem will continue to get worse if we cannot empower our children to do the work they are expected to do.
Even with awareness and the best of attitudes and intentions we can easily fall pray to frustration. We are in stressful times and teaching children at home may not have been what we thought we were signing up for, but we can do this. One thing foster care and adoption has taught me is that “hard” is “hard”, but hard does not mean bad. It has forced me to learn more about myself and what I am capable of accomplishing.
To help in navigating these muddy waters, I’ve asked TBRI educator, Arnold Valdez to share with us how trauma plays a role in teaching and learning.
In this episode Arnold reminded me that we have all experienced trauma and what we are going through right now, the pandemic and the unrest in our country is very traumatic for all of us. Staying connected within ourselves and with our children, validating their feelings, and creating structure and routine are critical in helping us to get through these stressful times. He also encourages and reminds us that parenting children from chaotic backgrounds is a marathon, not a sprint, and we must keep in mind that everything in the end will be ok.
Do yourself a favor and tune in to listen/watch Arnold, I know you will gain a lot of great information and helpful tools in this powerful episode on helping our children learn in spite of their past and in spite of our current stressful situations… Be sure to leave your most helpful teaching strategies in the comment section below.
DEEPER DOWN THE WELL
I highly recommend all of Heather Forbes books and her book Help for Billy is no exception.
Help for Billy is a pragmatic manual to help guide families and educators who are struggling with traumatized children. Based on the concept of the neuroscience of emotions and behavior, Heather Forbes provides detailed, comprehensive, and logical strategies for teachers and parents.