By now the supply lists have been checked off and the teacher meetings and school orientations have been attended. Most likely your children (and you) have also had a flood of different emotions as the school year approached and began. Disappointment that summer has come to a close. Excitement looking forward to the new year. Or maybe a bit of anxiety or nervousness about new routines, teachers, classes or friends.
Throughout our 40 years in operation, we’ve noted that children who live in households where violence exists also have a flood of emotions related to school. Some children are happy to use school as an escape, a place to feel safe from their chaotic and fearful home. Like Wendy, a childhood survivor of domestic violence, who stayed at our shelter 31 years ago when her mother packed up her and her brothers to flee their abusive stepfather. Wendy shared with us: “As a child, I loved school because it was a place to get away. I didn’t have to deal with the arguing and seeing my mom get hurt.”
Still other children may resist attending school because they experience separation anxiety – feeling the need to stay home to “save” the abused parent from the abuser. No matter what the circumstance, at HAVEN we work hard to meet the children we serve where they are emotionally to help facilitate healing.
In addition to ensuring the children staying in our shelter are attending school, we provide counseling, and the option to attend a variety of supportive groups in a therapeutic environment to them. We also offer respite activities such as going to a ball game, a playground, etc. and many options to play. For some of the children, it’s the first opportunity they have to have truly be a kid.
One of our main goals is to help the children to feel safe, secure and loved no matter what activity they are engaged in. If you’re a parent, like me, I’m sure you share the same goal. So as you settle in to the monotony of packing lunches and helping with homework over the next few weeks and months, remember that those comforting words and gestures you used to soothe their nerves on the first day will still be just as impactful and important on the 50th day, as well as the 150th day.
Wishing you and your children an enjoyable and successful school year.