It has been nearly a year since the last time I posted on the blog, but I’m back. I am Warrior Mama, hear me roar! 😉
I just wrote a passionate email to all the teachers and other staff working with my daughter about an incident that happened at school this afternoon. So I thought I would just go ahead and share it with all my fellow Warrior Mamas and Papas… both to offer it as a potential resource, but also to confess my weakness.
My weakness as a person who loves to write is.. well… that I love to write. Most people, especially teachers, don’t love (or have enough time) to read as much as I want and need to say.
My emails are WAYYY too long. I know this. While I love to be sensitive to the needs of others, my daughter comes first. I need to say things — IMPORTANT THINGS. So, I say them. I edit out as much as I can, but what’s left is what needs to be heard.
My other weakness to confess is that my first instinct when these things happen is to rip them to shreds with my writing. I have to restrain myself from doing this, because it gets us nowhere.
But I still have things to say… so I try my very good girl best to frame my messages in a “compliment sandwich”… 1. Be nice. 2. State the problem and my suggestion on how to solve it. 3. Be nice again.
This is the structure I used for the email below that I just sent to my daughter’s teachers and other staff working with her (counselors, support staff, administrators, etc.).
Again… there is still a lot of anger and frustration here, but just spewing my rage at them does nothing to solve the problem. I’m hoping this attempt does. We shall see.
So here’s today’s WARRIOR MAMA RANT of the day. Not the first, and certainly not the last. Enjoy….. and please let me know what you think! Was I too harsh, or did I strike a strong but kind tone?
I’ll let you know how the replies go when I hear back…
First of all, thanks for all you are doing for (name of my child – initial D) in the classroom. In general, she seems to be handling peer and stress issues better, even though there is still a long way to go… and progress is never a straight line. So thanks for your support and for all you are doing each day to help her learn and be successful at (name of school).
Thanks also very much to the (name of school-based mental health group) counselors who have met with me several times, both individually and as a group, to discuss D’s needs and to come up with better ways to communicate between home and school.
I need to share this message with all of you that work with her, because it may happen again and I want to do what we can as a team to prevent it….
Something happened this afternoon that concerns me deeply, so I just need to remind everyone who works with her that even though she often appears “normal” on the outside, my daughter has been diagnosed with multiple severe mental illnesses, including anxiety and depression. Her mental illness has been severe enough that she has been hospitalized nine times in the past six years.
I don’t want to scare or blame anyone, but I have to protect my daughter.
Because she is still a very mentally unstable child, understanding her needs and following recommendations in the IEP at all times could potentially become a LIFE OR DEATH issue in D’s case. Her moods change from day to day and hour to hour as any typical teenager’s do, but her trauma history puts her at a much more serious risk of self-harm and suicide. She also is trying very hard to keep her attendance good this year, but there are still times when she wants to quit school completely because of academic/social/emotional stress and overwhelm. So we are dealing with a kid with high risk and high need for support.
D came home very upset and anxious today, and it took me a long time to figure out what was going on because she was so shut down. After she was able to calm down, I finally found out that there was some kind of a video or presentation about bullying and suicide during the last hour or activity period today.
I really wish I had known about this ahead of time so that her counselors and I could have either prepared her for it or planned for her to be excused from this activity. I have no idea whose idea it was to show this to all the students without first asking parents for permission (especially parents of kids like mine), but from a parenting and mental health perspective, I am shocked that no one thought to consider it.
Because no one – no teacher, staff, counselor, or administrator – contacted me about this ahead of time, or even thought to do so, I need to make this very clear for future reference:
1. D’s counselors and I, her mother, need to be informed of ANY AND ALL movies or other learning activities about bullying, death, loss, war, natural disaster, suicide, sexual assault, etc. well in advance so that we can decide together with her if it’s appropriate for her or or help her process her feelings. This also includes any activities about personal history, such as baby photos, memories of her childhood, family history/ancestry/heritage/culture, etc.
2. D always needs to have the option of doing a different activity instead of watching a video or participating in an activity that might trigger her traumatic memories. This should be discreet so as not to embarrass her.
3. I know that it’s very hard for the teachers to know when D is upset about something because she hides it so well with smiling and laughing. Please keep in mind that the famous actor Robin Williams was usually seen smiling and laughing, too, and this was not at all a good way to evaluate his internal severe depression before he killed himself.
Once again, I am aware that most of you do not deal with the harsh reality of having a child with severe mental illness on a daily basis, so I’m sure that this oversight was not intentional. You are doing the best you can each day, and no one is perfect. No need for excuses or reasons… you are all very busy and overwhelmed, and I understand this.
But as a mother who DOES deal with the challenging aftermath at home of everything that D tries so hard to cope with at school with a smile, I need to sincerely ask for your cooperation in working with me to keep the lines of communication open as much as possible.
Also, instead of TELLING me how D is doing at school, it would be so nice for everyone working with her to ASK me how she is doing on a regular basis. It would be such a relief and build a lot of trust to know that you truly care about her this way and support my role as the one person who knows her best and cares about her the most.
As always, D and I appreciate everyone’s support and the hard work you are doing daily as teachers and professionals. It was also really great that D felt strong and confident enough to attend a basketball game on Thursday night with a friend. Go, (name of school team mascots)! 🙂
Thanks so much for your understanding and help,