Expelled from School—It’s a Wild Ride
Dealing With Your Student’s Emotions
Being expelled from school can initiate a rollercoaster of emotions for both you and your child. Make sure you keep your lap belts on and your head against the headrest. You’ll get through this, and your own sense of calm can be a comfort to your child in this time. Over time, both of you will be able to look back at the situation and say, “Remember that one time when you were expelled from school?” and see all the ways God used it to help you learn and grow.
This article is Part 2 of a three-part series on processing and responding to a child being expelled from school.
Part 1: How to deal with your own emotions about your child being expelled.
Part 2: How to help your child work through their emotions about being expelled.
Part 3: How to discover the source of the problem and get your child back on track in his or her education.
Helping Your Child Ride Out Their Escalating Emotions
Like you, your child will also go through a wide range of emotions right after he or she is expelled from school. These emotions will change for several weeks until they settle into their new routine.
Many teens may act as though being expelled does not bother them. It is important that you recognize that this apparent disregard of their emotions is probably a coping mechanism. It is important to help your child navigate through the myriad of emotions they are likely feeling.
First Drop of Fear
Your child may be afraid to tell you what happened, as they do not want to disappoint you or face additional punishment. Your child may also be afraid of the unknown ahead.
Be gentle, yet direct with your child and address their potential fears head on. Let them know that you’re there to help and comfort, that you love them unconditionally, just like Christ’s love for us. Your child will certainly face the natural consequences of their behaviors and living in fear of additional punishment can create a wall between you and your child at a time when you are attempting to re-establish trust. Reassure them that you will not increase their suffering and are willing to listen to them in order to sympathize with what they may be feeling.
Double Dip of Defensiveness
Many kids are just as surprised about being expelled from school as you are. Perhaps they were unaware of the rules and did not intend to break them. Other times, they may feel their behaviors were justified. Through the eyes of a teen, things often seem unfair, and they usually spend a lot of energy voicing this. Whatever the scenario, your child may have a tendency to want to make excuses and defend their behavior. While this is a normal reaction, however, it is important that you help them to come to grips with what has happened, accept responsibility for their behaviors, and move on. Although a difficult concept for many teens to move through, this is the first step in taking a turn in a positive direction.
Spinning with Shame
Your child may be ashamed of the behavior that got them expelled from school, or they may feel embarrassed about the expulsion itself.
It is crucial that your child understands that you seeing their sin does not change the love and acceptance you feel toward them. Remind them that their shame was covered by Jesus, that He bore the shame of sin, and rejection. Even now, He is with them bearing their burdens. Take time to pray in these truths with your child, and encourage them to come to Him with their emotions, and be honest with Him about the things they are ashamed of.
Your child has just gone through a situation where they may have felt rejected in a place that was supposed to make them feel safe.
Just like the story of the prodigal son, it is important that your child feel your unconditional parental acceptance. In light of this, it’s important that your home is a safe, stable, supportive environment. While there may be some serious behavior issues for you to deal with, it can be more effective to ride the roller coaster of being expelled from school together, and then tease out the underlying issues and impose consequences for future instances.
As your child wrestles with feelings of rejection and shame, he or she may also experience periods of anger. This anger could be at the school, at God, or even at him- or herself. It’s important that you remain calm and weather the storm with your child.
Whether or not you feel the school was justified in expelling your child from school, people are not perfect, and these things may not always be handled with the utmost of grace. Make a point to advocate for the kind treatment of your child throughout the process. Studies show a strong connection between the socioemotional and academic well-being of an expelled child and the treatment of that child by the school. The school should be supportive of your student even while protecting the academic environment.
Understanding the emotions your child may be feeling is important, but regardless of what he or she is feeling, it is most important that you make yourself available to listen as they process what they’re feeling with you. If they won’t talk to you, it may be beneficial to find a counselor to help them understand what they’re feeling.
“Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.” James 1:19–10
Moving Right Along
Most likely, your child is craving to move forward with positivity rather than remaining in a cycle of negative feelings. A big part of working through these emotions with your child is giving them time to feel the emotions, sympathizing with them, and offering support, where needed. Finding hope and a future is a great way to hasten this process, rather than idling in the negativity of past behaviors. Including your child in looking for options to keep their education moving forward is a great way to get this process started.
One option you may want to consider is online homeschooling. Taking advantage of this option dispels your child’s need to defend their past actions to teachers and peers at a new school. It also allows them time to work through their feelings of shame, embarrassment and anger without placing their education on hold. Homeschooling online also provides you with an opportunity to show your child that you are investing time and energy in them, one-on-one. This is a great way to show them that you love and support them unconditionally, and it may help to offset some of the feelings of rejection they may be feeling.
If online homeschooling seems like an option you’d like to pursue, consider Enlightium Academy. We offer a fully accredited curriculum with a Christian worldview that could benefit your child at this critical time in their formative years.
Regardless of the decisions you make for your child’s educational future, as your child begins to open up and share with you, be sure to listen intently while validating their feelings and experiences. Let them know that you will help them in any way you are able, and that you will be there beside them no matter what. Your child may need more help than you feel you can give, and that is okay. Just do your best to usher them in a positive direction. God will do the rest.