little boy raising his hand in school

We send our children to school thinking about how they will do today and how they will do in the future. We want our children to be both happy in school and challenged to build new skills.

Each school year brings both challenges related to academics and your child’s social and emotional growth. Children who have been adopted may face additional educational and social challenges. Now add in the global COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on children, teachers, parents and school! Our jobs as parents have become even more complex, but there are strategies you can use to set your child up for learning and success. 

Creating School Success

Here are 7 specific ways that you can help your child be successful in any complex school setting.

1. Share information. Provide background information on your child to their teachers every school year. Include their strengths, areas of difficulty and any past hardships. Don’t assume the teacher knows this information. Sharing this information allows teachers to craft a response to your student that is sensitive and more effective in helping them learn.  

2. Contact the school counselor. If your child has had traumatic experiences or recent disruptions such as a divorce, family move, adoption-related stress or serious illness in the family, contact their school counselor and let them know. School counselors can provide more student support, which may include individual visits with the student in school and support groups with students who have experienced similar difficulties.

3. Help children resolve conflicts. All students have conflicts or misunderstandings with peers. Resolving these difficulties helps students learn new skills. Coach your child on how they can resolve the conflict with another student. If problems with another student persist for many days or weeks, or if there is an imbalance of power in the relationship, take a more active role in assessing what is going on and helping your child resolve the situation. Let children know that it is appropriate to tell adults about ongoing problems that don’t seem fair or are interfering with daily school life. Help your child find a safe way to report the problem.  

4. Help your child be an ally to other students. Teach them how to stand up to bullying and befriend a student who is being criticized by others. Encourage them to reach out to students who seem lonely or isolated. When your child learns to become an ally, they build their ability to help others and make their school safer for all students.

little girl with Down syndrome laughing with parents

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5. Help create a positive experience at school. In order to learn and build necessary skills, students should generally feel happy about school. Consistently unhappy students don’t learn and fall behind in their studies. If your child frequently complains about school and is generally unhappy, try to find the root cause of the problem. Sometimes the school can make changes to accommodate them. Remember that schools are there to serve students’ needs. Sometimes their rules and practices need to change to further accommodate individual students. If the teacher can’t make these changes, go “up the line” to the principal to share your concerns. Administrators have a responsibility to make sure that school rules and practices effectively serve all students.  

6. Advocate for your child. Often children’s skill levels don’t match up with their grade level — they either are behind others or have already mastered that grade-level expectation. Schools are expected to “differentiate” learning for all students to accommodate different learning styles. If your child is struggling because their skill level does not match their grade level, it is appropriate for you to advocate for them. The resulting changes will not only help your student but also others who are struggling.  

7. Get additional support. When a student’s work or performance does not match their grade level, schools have different options and levels of support. Learn about the differences between supplemental instruction, 504 accommodation plans for students with disabilities, individual education plans for students with a documented learning concern, and advanced learning options for students who learn new material quickly. Each of these student support systems have different ways of qualifying students for additional services and are guided by unique laws protecting students’ rights.  

adoptive parents receiving parent counseling with their adopted child

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All parents encounter challenges as their children grow up. And sometimes, issues may arise that leave you uncertain as to how best to respond. But not every issue requires therapy or counseling. The PACE program is here to help during those times.

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