It is two weeks until the summer holidays start and life is rather stressful. As I explained in one of my early blog posts, Christmas is our most difficult time of year, owing to the fact that our eldest moved foster care placements two years in a row just days before Christmas Day. Christmas for him is associated with a deep sense of loss and fear and we, sadly have to revisit that journey with him each and every year. In a word, for us, Christmas is pretty crap! The second most stressful time of year for us is the end of a school term. One analogy I have previously used is of a horse being in a field with the fence around it being the structure, routines and boundaries that our children have. They feel safe and secure knowing that the fence is there to protect them. Sometimes they will venture up to the fence to make sure it is still there, and that they are still safe. Once they see that is is, they will retreat happily back to roam around in the field again. In ‘real’ terms, this means our children will test the boundaries at times and whilst they may protest when that boundary is enforced, it actually keeps them feeling safe.
The end of the school terms means SO many endings and changes and this causes the ‘routine’ parts of the fence to start to collapse. Prior to a few weeks ago, my boys’ routines looked something similar to the below:
Monday- school with Mrs A
Tuesday – school with Mrs A, Drama club after school, Scouts after dinner
Wednesday- school with Mrs A, dinner with grandparents
Thursday- school with Mrs A, Judo after dinner
Friday – school with Mrs A, coding club in the afternoon
Saturday- family day
Sunday – climbing club, family afternoon.
Monday- school with Mrs B
Tuesday – school with Mrs B, cubs after dinner
Wednesday – school with Mrs C, dinner with grandparents
Thursday- school with Mrs C
Friday- school with Mrs C, football after school
Saturday – family day
Sunday – morning walk with Mum, family afternoon.
As you can see, lots of routines, structure, clear markers to indicate what day it is and therefore what day/activity is next.
Next week however, lots of this will change- cubs and Scouts have finish, football, climbing and coding finish this week. For Tiny, Mrs B has just left to have a baby which has meant that for a few weeks, there is going to be an addition of Mrs D and Mrs E as well as the current Mrs C Wednesday to Friday. Tom is about to appear in the show they have been getting ready for in Drama class, which means that once the preformance is over, that ‘routine’ is also finished. Within school itself, lessons wind down, the school starts to be packed up for the holidays and there is a new fear placed upon pupils- the fact that they are going to be with a new teacher and in a new classroom once they return. This on top of all the ‘endings’ can just be far too much for our children with attachement issues to take. Change and loss to them is cause for insurmountable fear. It is no surprise that their behaviour becomes irratic in the lead up to the holidays- this is their way of communicating the fear and confusion.
So what can we do? Well, as far as possible, routines should be kept up as long as possible. I will be ensuring that the non school/club routines remain the same such as visiting grandparents and school have said they will keep their normal routines for as long as they can. The end is inevitable though and so we really have to prepare children for it. Once they know who their new teacher is, it is essential that the new teacher tries to build up a bit of a relationship with the child PRIOR to the holidays. Thankfully, Mrs D is to be one of Tiny’s new teachers and so he will get to know her over the next couple of weeks. For Tom, his new teacher has been making a point of chatting to him when passing and she also went away on school camp recently with him too. The school are also going to send home photographs of the new teachers so we can have lots of discussions about the changes both before and during the holidays. I have also asked if both boys can nip in to school on the inservice day just to ‘check in’ with their new teachers before the actual term begins- this will hopefully calm those going back nerves/fear.
I am aware that both my children struggle with loss and this end of term is going to be a particularly ‘full of loss’ one- they have increased their after school activities which of course results in more endings! So what am I going to do? Well, I am going to take those losses and play my card- a new beginning! I attended an amazing training day a couple of weeks ago for a programme of work called Emotion Works. I was so inspired and could see how beneficial it could be for my children, that I have offered to do a pilot of it with the boys. We are going to begin as soon as school ends with popcorn, snuggles on the sofa and a very apt film to get us going, Inside Out. We are going to be becoming Emotion Detectives on a journey to become emotionally literate.
Both Tom and Tiny know about this new beginning and so it is something for them to hopefully focus on while all the endings drift away around them. It is going to become a weekly feature on my blog over the holidays and so I hope you will check in to see our progress.
The holidays themselves are loooooooooooong and so it is essential to have as much structure as possible worked in to the weeks. We will sit down and have a planning meeting together to decide on the structure of each week and what activities they might like to do. Our holiday away will be managed with a visual timetable for both boys and I will blog about this nearer the time.
For now however, I am just trying to help the boys to hold everything together as much as possible. Each year does get easier for Tom but for Tiny, we are just as the start of this experience of end of terms and so it’s a storm we all need to ride together!
I am managing to escape the intensity of this time for the day tomorrow and am heading to a ‘bloggers conference’….. free food, free drink (including wine!!), lots of speakers and a free goodie bag- what is not to love! Hopefully I will learn lots of tricks of the trade too 😀
Have a great weekend everyone, and if you to have children struggling with the impending end of term madness, why don’t you have a litre think about a new beginning you could start too. Do leave a comment to let us know what you are planning to do.