It is getting to that time in the summer holidays when you might start preparing your child for the return to school. This blog has some tips to support you with doing this.
First of all, remember every child is different and you will be aware of how much notice your child needs for upcoming events. Some need a lot of notice and some need very little. Too much notice can cause anxiety about the event and so can too little! Go with what works best for your child.
Any preparation should be positive (as positive as possible) so a ‘little and often’ approach can work. Too much information can be overwhelming and increase anxiety. And your anxiety can feed in to how you prepare your child, what you say and do. In turn, this then becomes overwhelming for you. Before you know it, the cycle has begun and you still have 9 days before school starts!
Social Stories (TM – Carol Gray)
Social Stories can be a very powerful way to support a child going back to school. A Social Story explains a situation, a context, an event and gives reassurance. It is designed to be simple, focused, key message orientated to help the child understand what is going to happen and alleviate anxiety. When writing a social story, you can refer to the website www.socialstories.com
Your child’s school may have given you a transition book to use over the holidays. Usually these help your child to prepare for the next academic year and have photos and writing to explain it. For example, a photo of the teacher, the classroom, cloakroom, toilets etc.
You may like to use a countdown to school starting so your child has a time scale. These can be presented visually on a calendar or using a software program such as widgitonline .Not every child can cope with a countdown and may prefer a count up to going back to school.
Your child may find it hard to wear new uniform and be reluctant to wear it, even if their old uniform does not fit anymore! Sensory sensitivities relating to uniform is very common. It can help to wash the new uniform several times to make it less stiff and scratchy feeling. It will also make it smell like their own clothes. You can take out labels if they cause discomfort. Both M & S and Asda do a range of clothes which take sensory sensitivities into account. Practice putting the uniform on; a visual cue card can help with the order.
Walk or drive past school and wave!
This helps to get ready for the journey to school. Combine this with talking about a favourite thing to do at school or talk about a positive school event in the past.
Getting the school bag and lunchbox ready
Practice getting the school bag ready and eating a lunch out of their lunch box can be a helpful preparation activity. Maybe these are new, your child may have chosen them themselves and they may have chosen a favourite character or programme. Show your child where you have written their name so they can identify it (other children will have the same!). It can be helpful to have a visual cue card in the lunch box to help your child know what to eat first.
Meeting up with friends
Meeting with friends before going back to school can be part of the preparation. Some children may not have seen school buddies over the holiday so this can be a positive way to make connections again. The meet up doesn’t have to be long as this can be overwhelming.
Asking and answering questions
Dedicate some time for your child to ask questions and for you to answer them. You can set up a question box for your child to write their questions down, set a time to sit and answer them. Anxious children can ask lots of questions as a way to calm and reassure themselves so it is important to set aside some time and have ‘an appointment with school questions’ rather than having lots of questions all day. Display the questions and answers so your child can see you have had this time together.
Of course, there never is a right way or a wrong way to do anything, the most important thing is that you prepare your child in a way that suits them best. Preparation of any kind should be focused around lowering anxiety and making the return to school a positive experience – for all of you!