Tips For a Successful Transition Back to School
Back to school tips to make the transition easier on the whole family.
With school about to resume after the long summer break, now is the time to put wheels in motion for a smooth transition to the back to school routine. These back to school tips will benefit the whole family.
First and foremost on parents’ minds is likely some dread thinking about the “morning routine” of school time. Two weeks prior to the start of school, establish school appropriate bedtime and wake up times, and practice going to bed and waking up at those times. Determine what the school morning will look like for each member of the family. Don’t use words alone – try using visual schedules to illustrate routines. A checklist with added visuals helps children learn how to self assess if they have completed what is expected of them. Every child wants to succeed, and feeling successful with the morning routine is no different.
Who will prepare breakfast and lunch?
Make sure to leave enough time in the morning routine for eating breakfast or preparing healthy smoothies to go. Start planning breakfast and lunch options a couple of weeks before school starts too, especially if your child is a picky eater. Explore ways your child can learn to make their own healthy lunches with plenty of fruits, crunchy veggies and protein to fuel their brain throughout the day.
Transition of movement
As kids head back to school, it’s important for parents to understand that their child’s nervous system is going to go through a transition while their body gets used to having less active movement throughout their day. Summer time fun involves a lot of whole body big movement play. School time requires more small motor tabletop play and learning experiences. This shift in body movement can cause a child to get fidgety or anxious. Try not to increase this anxiety by emphasizing they should “sit still”, “be good”, or “pay attention”. Make sure they get a good amount of active movement during after school hours.
If your child has been seeing an occupational therapist working on strategies to support attention and regulation, or if there are certain words that help your child connect to whole body listening, share those strategies and words with your child’s teacher prior to the commencement of the school year.
Much of the tabletop play and learning will involve writing or drawing. The small motor skills required for both are not necessarily automatic and easy for all children. Watch how your child picks up and holds a marker or pencil, and if they experience joy or avoidance responses when doing so. If you notice a tendency towards avoidance, manipulation seems awkward or encumbered, or if their desire to do age appropriate drawing and writing does not develop, seek advice from a pediatric occupational therapist as early as possible.
The classroom environment may have a lot more sound and visual stimulus than a child might experience during a typical summer break day, as well as many more people in their immediate space. For some children, this additional sensory activity is joyful, but for those with sensory processing challenges, these circumstances can heighten the stress response. Be aware and observe your child as he transitions into these new situations, and appreciate how his/her brain may be working to modulate and process the incoming sensory information.
Children can also be overwhelmed by the amount of oral communication they have to process during a school day. They need to fire up their listening skills to follow direction, and their memory systems need to respond and perform in an expected manner in a group all day. Whew, that’s a lot! Don’t be surprised if they struggle with following directions and listening when they get home at the end of the day. Watch for chewing of shirt, pencils and other nonfood items – this is a sign that their nervous systems is needing help to regulate. Keep this in mind for the first couple of weeks and try not to overload them with too many additional directions.
School requires children to be sharing thoughts and ideas, and following direction utilizing their language processing brains all day long. If they are struggling in any of these areas and if they were a late talker, seek a speech and language evaluation to gain insight into language processing, before social, emotional, or reading/spelling concerns develop as well.
Speech intelligibility is a developmental process. Knowing when your child should be saying “s”, “l” and “r” sounds, to name a few, correctly can be confusing. This chart can be referenced as a guideline.
Finally, you and your child will feel tired as you transition sleep patterns and routines back to school. Be kind to both of your nervous systems and don’t over schedule your child’s after school activities. Some down time is a good thing – for both of you.