Get Set for School: Tips to Help Ease Your Child’s Transition Back-to-School

It’s that time again….. summer is coming to a close and the new school year is upon us. The transition from summer to school can be a difficult one for many children (and parents!). Are you worried about getting your child ready for the new school year? Well do not fear, the team here at Children’s Therapy Connections has compiled some tips to make the transition back-to-school seamless and stress free!

1. Restart Routines

Summer tends to be a time of less structure, and therefore many of the school year routines fall to the wayside. Waiting until the first day of school to get back into school year routines is a recipe for disaster! Restarting routines 1-2 weeks before the start of school will help your child know what to expect come the start of school and provide repeated practice to increase their independence when completing them. Also, supporting new routines with quick and easy visual schedules can increase independence, help your child stay on track, and make sure all the necessary steps are completed (See example below). Important routines to consider and practice include:

  • Sleep schedule: Gradually get your child back to to their bedtime and waking schedule by adjusting bedtime and wake up by 10-15 minutes every 2-3 days, until you are back to your ideal school year timing.
  • Morning routine: Start completing the typical morning routine upon waking up including getting dressed, grooming, eating breakfast. Doing as much preparation as possible the night before can reduce morning stressors such as choosing an outfit, packing lunch, and packing their backpack.
  • After school routine: Figure out what your child’s after school routine will be and practice it at the same time they would be arriving home. What is the afternoon going to look like? Will they have a snack and then complete homework? Will there be chores to be done? When will free play and electronics be allowed? Setting clear expectations around homework, chores, etc. before the start of the school year can help your child know what to expect and avoid the dreaded power struggle of getting homework completed.
  • Bedtime routine: Select a consistent time that your child’s bedtime routine needs to start and practice the routine with the necessary tasks required to prepare for the coming day such as laying out an outfit, packing their backpack or lunch, etc. This will help decrease morning time stress. Consistency in bedtime routines can help children calm their body and mind to decrease their arousal level in preparation for sleep. For a child who has difficulty getting to sleep, we recommend inserting calming sensory tasks, such as a warm bath and lotion massage, into their nightly routine.
  • Meal schedules: Gradually get your child on an eating schedule that is similar to the school day, starting with a hearty and nutritious breakfast.

Here’s an example of a morning routine visual schedule:

2. Ease Anxiety for Your Child (And Manage Your Own!)

Starting a new school year can be anxiety provoking for many children. They may be wondering: “What will my new teacher be like?” Where is my classroom and how am I going to find it?” “Will I know anyone in my class?” There are many new things introduced all at once and many unknowns that often cause a case of the first day jitters. Providing known information in a structured way can help ease those worried feelings. A fun and engaging way to do so is through a back-to-school social story. There are many options for creating social stories including simple one page stories, books, and even videos. The key is to make you child the star! Using real photos of items, places, and people helps with generalization of the information from the story to the real world. The key is to keep it simple and easy to understand! Once completed, review the social story a few times per day during the weeks leading up to the start of school.

Here is a sample back-to-school social story using iMovies(available on Apple devices):

It is also important to manage your own anxiety regarding the new school year. As the saying goes, “The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.” If you are feeling anxious or worried, chances are that your child is picking up on that and may become anxious as well. Keep all discussion regarding school positive (regardless of how you may actually feel)! Remaining cool, calm, and collected will let your child know that there is nothing to worry about. Also, normalizing those anxious feelings is essential. Let your child know that feeling worried or nervous for the new school year is completely normal!

3. Go For a Test Run (or 2)!

This is your chance to bring it all together! Take all the above routines and anxiety reduction tools and run through them in real time. So set your alarms, do the morning routine, get out of the house on time, and go to school or the bus drop off location. This will allow the necessary adjustments to be made to ensure the first day of school goes smoothly.

Have additional questions or concerns? Please feel free to reach out to us here at Children’s Therapy Connections at any time!

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