I am sure most parents are celebrating the added hours of freedom that comes with their children going back to school. But for Ayden, my son with hearing loss, my heart sinks as my anxiety gets the best of me.
I feel it there – the joy of a few hours a day of a little less noise and a few more accomplished goals, but as a mother of children with special needs, the beginning of the school year has an added weight.
In a few days, the boys get to meet their new teachers, see their new classrooms and check to see what friends are in their class. When I walked through the checkout line after back-to-school shopping, I wondered what was going through his own little mind as he prepares for his first day of school.
In the midst of all my whirlwind emotions, I have to be intentional in how I prepare for the school year. When my thoughts get carried away, I find myself anxious, unproductive and feeling defeated. Therefore, as a mother of children with hearing loss, I have challenged myself to have four goals. I will be brave, prepare, take action, and take one day at a time.
Between tears of sadness and waves of fears, sending my child off to school is hard. I begin to question everything. Phrases like, “How did I let my child get on that bus, what was I thinking? I need to home school them all – FOREVER” run through my mind. I want to be a mother hen constantly protecting my children keeping them nice and safe under my wings.
But safe is not always right. For me, to be brave is a choice; it does not come naturally, and it is definitely not without fear. To choose to be brave as school starts means that I am trusting that a little separation is good for them (and me).
“Raising children who are hopeful and who have the courage to be vulnerable means stepping back and letting them experience disappointment, deal with conflict, learn how to assert themselves, and have the opportunity to fail,” writes Brene Brown, Phd and author of Daring Greatly wrote. “If we’re always following our children into the arena, using the critics, and assuming their victories, they’ll never learn that they have the ability to dare greatly on their own.”
My goal as a parent isn’t to make my children always need me and depend on me, but to help them be ready to spread their wings and fly when the time comes. Choosing to be brave is trusting that while my son has hearing loss, he is strong and capable, and resilient.
“Choosing to be brave is trusting that while my son has hearing loss, he is strong and capable, and resilient.”
If I don’t give him opportunities to display that strength and courage, I cheat him out of the chance to see those qualities in himself, for himself. When problems arise, we welcome them as they help us grow. When the hurtful experiences come, we will connect and learn to heal. I have to remind myself that choosing to be brave is to let them fly, and grow, and learn and become.
Letting them go is hard, but brave.
Whether it is bus fears or bathroom fears or being away from mom and dad fears, every child, and parent has areas that they feel nervous about. For Ayden, the bus is one of those places. Knowing this is a tough issue for us, I do what I can to help Ayden understand what to expect. I do that in a few ways.
First, we read a ton of books – Ayden’s preschool teacher gave us this idea when we were moving homes. We put together a book going through the process of school. When it came time to prepare for the bus, we read every book about going on the bus that we could get our hands on. We even created our own “book” that was specific to what Ayden would experience in his day. Reading books has been extremely helpful to prepare my children for the beginning of school.
Secondly, we talk it through. Talking through what to expect is really important to my children. I try to keep the explanations simple, but I let them know, step by step, what they can expect from the first day of school. To keep my boys attention, I use paper, or a white board to help keep their attention. I use this opportunity to fish for questions that my children might have. I want to know what is going through their minds, and opening a conversation helps to create those opportunities.
My anxiety about the school year stems from the whirling questions that are flying in my mind. I wonder – will his bus driver be nice, will Ayden get on the bus, will his teacher know how to interact with Ayden, will he make friends. Some of the questions I cannot do anything about as his mother. However, there are some that I can do something about.
For example, I make sure that the bus driver, on the first day, knows that Ayden has hearing loss, and wears hearing aids. When the bus pulls up, I let Ayden walk on, and then I walk up into the bus and I share with the bus driver and the aid on the bus a few specifics about Ayden.
Specifically, I share tips on talking with Ayden and potential challenges for Ayden on the bus due to his hearing loss. I then hand the aid and the bus driver a piece of paper with a simple explanation of the words I shared. I add a little bit of background on Ayden and make sure the bus driver knows they can ask me anything. Ensuring a perfect bus ride is impossible, but I can do my best to equip those around him to help Ayden feel connected and safe and understood.
Giving tips to the bus driver is one example. Having helpful insights for teachers and other staff members working with my son can go a long way. A lot of this discussion will happen at an IEP meeting, however, it cannot hurt to reiterate the information.
For some reason, I want to know every single problem that could possibly happen to my children. Once I have identified every problem, I try to work out an even possible solution to hose problem. While a level of this is good and makes sense, this mindset can also drive a person mad. As much as I want to be, I will not be a perfect parent. I will do everything I can to help my children, but I will make mistakes, I will fall short. Sometimes, being a good parent is just taking one day at a time.
Preparing for the beginning of the school year is difficult. There are a lot of unknowns and fears. However, for me, I want to remind myself that when I choose to be brave, when I plan for what I can and take action when needed, I can let go and watch my child grow, learn, and discover the courage and strength that I see in him.
Do you have any other back-to-school tips as your deaf child prepares for the school year? Please let us know in the comments!