It’s that time of year again. Last week we had three days of tension build-up until the ‘A’-level results came out on Thursday – and then, in our office at least, great jubilation when grades matched offers and children’s university places were confirmed. And now it’s Wednesday and tomorrow the GCSE results will be released. So, another week of nail-biting – and hopefully good news tomorrow.
Two more of the several initiation rites that our children have to negotiate on their journey to adulthood. Most of our birth children have the confidence to pass the tests they are set – and the resilience to recover if they don’t; that lovely elasticity of spirit that (at some unconscious level) says ‘I will use whatever happens to me as an opportunity to explore my potential and develop skills – and reach even further’. But if there has been some adversity along the way, a quirk of fate which means they were dealt a tough hand, or if they are our foster children with a harrowing chronology that leaves you wondering about the future of the human race, then the path to adulthood is not a straight one. They might not even have sat their GCSEs – for whatever reason. And will never make sixth form.
So what do we do? Most schools require our children to stay firmly in the box – with the exits signposted to predetermined destinations – whether university, an apprenticeship or a job on an assembly line in a local factory. But, as our more complex children make the transition to their new school, their new class, their first job, we have to seize the courage to step confidently outside the box – and, in so doing, provide the footprints that they can follow. Alessia Russo, the goal-scoring Lioness, would never have become the star she has if she had stayed within the box; there was no girls’ football team where she lived as a child so her dad persuaded the local boys’ team coach to allow her to join the boys’ team. Some of you may have watched The South Bank Show earlier in the month where there was an interview with Carlos Acosta, regarded by many as the greatest male ballet dancer since Nureyev. He was brought up with his ten siblings in a one-bedroom flat in Cuba – and with a lorry driver father who used the flat side of a machete to discipline his children (not something you’re likely to find recommended in AC Education’s parenting courses!). But his father watched his son breakdancing and saw he had talent and took him to audition for the ballet school in Havana. And, at 49, he is now the director of Birmingham Royal Ballet.
Your traumatised child may struggle with the constraints of a formal classroom setting that has information acquisition as its goal. They feel unsafe when they are so confined. You may accept as a given that at each transitional stage the school buildings typically get bigger – but your child may well worry about getting lost or arriving late to a lesson. Those who have a brain pattern formed as a result of significant loss, tend to be frightened at the thought of getting lost in the warren of classrooms and corridors. They also are likely to have had birth parents who didn’t reassure them when they were scared or lost, so their anxiety is heightened and they are unlikely to ask for help, given that in their experience adults are either unhelpful or downright bad. So, it’s up to you to face down those who tell you and your child to stay in the box. Make sure that you both visit their new school – or new classroom – and negotiate the corridors before the autumn term begins and do whatever it takes to give them their chance to fly – or play football, or dance!
Martha and Rachel
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