The end of summer can be such a bittersweet time. The lazier days are winding down, but the excitement of a new school year is on the horizon. For some kids and parents, a new school year invokes more anxiety than excitement. For whatever reason that may be, here are some tips to reduce anxiety and boost excitement.
Children will mirror what they sense from you. As a parent you must choose how you will respond to a new school year. Your child is looking to you for leadership.
It may be touch, but a difficult school year does not determine a lifetime. Character and perseverance are developed through overcoming difficult circumstances. Choose to use any struggles as teachable moments in showing your child that no matter what you love them, are there to support them, and are proud of them for their courage in overcoming difficult situations.
Talk to the teacher about your concerns
- I am often asked the teacher should be approached before the school year or to wait and see if problems occur. Talk to the teacher as soon as possible. They want to understand, want to anticipate any snags, and can begin to work out solutions before an issue even arises.
- Provide any helpful information about your child such as reports from professionals who already know your child, any testing, a note from an understanding former teacher, babysitter, or caregiver.
- Make sure to communicate your child’s strengths and interests. Some people are naturally talented at finding the good in people and teachers tend to be just that type. But just in case your teacher is still learning this talent, give him or her a cheat sheet. (Our secret!)
Make it easy for the teacher to connect with you and keep you up to date by providing your email and phone numbers. For bonus points, hand write it in your best penmanship on a nice card. If you really want to be the teacher’s pet, add a gift card! Make a plan for communication (a note in the backpack, folder, email, etc) that is easy to implement. Together, you could make a note template that the teacher can just check off items or write a quick note. Provide plenty of copies so the teacher might slip it into a folder or backpack. As the year goes on, you may need to adjust the template as you find what works best. If your child will have multiple teachers, provide a packet for each (might get expensive with the whole gift card thing so maybe settle for star student with candy, a flower, or the classic red apple!).
Know your school’s resources
Every school can be different. Get to know the rest of the staff as well. Finding out who the right person for the right issue or concern can be key. Check out the playground, classrooms, and other areas for physical resources that might meet your child’s sensory needs. Think about opportunities for proprioceptive input (heavy muscle use such as climbing equipment), vestibular (movement like swings), and touch (sandboxes, etc). Also note what might be missing that supports your child. For example, the playground has swings, but nothing to climb on for proprioceptive input. Creative solutions can then be found.
Have a Professional Meet with Your Teacher
This may cost money for a professional’s time, but if they know your child well and can advocate by communicating the specific needs of your child and offer support to the teacher (rather than a list of more things for them to do), it would be worth every penny. It can be reassuring and a relief for teachers to understand, be empowered with this understanding, and to know that there is someone they can turn to when they have questions, concerns, and need direction.
Prepare for the Changes in Routine (or from the lack of one during the summer!)
Visit the school, new classrooms, and new teachers as soon as you can. Take pictures of the people and places your child will see. If you’re creative and crafty, make a New School Year Storybook. Review and talk about the pictures often. Children who struggle with transitions will need to review it more frequently. If they become anxious reassure them with your words, your tone, and that you believe in them.
Start waking up early and practicing the morning routine several days if not a week before school starts. Changes in sleep schedules can take a long time to become accustomed to. Starting this early will help to alleviate grumpiness from sleep changes.
Practicing the morning routine will give you and your child an opportunity to see just how much time waking up, breakfast, dressing, lunch making, backpacking, driving (although traffic will inevitably be much worse when school actually starts!), and dropping off really takes. Since it is practice, the pressure of being on time is turned into a goal or a game that allows for opportunities to work together to find creative solutions to problems.
Stay Focused on the Joy of Learning
Learning is not always easy. However, being curious and creative make learning a pleasurable experience. People who enjoy learning tend to be very successful and joyful. Check this article out for how curiosity creates joy in learning. Remember, learning is for a lifetime and this school year is just one step on the journey.
Hope these are helpful tips. Let us know how they worked for you. What tips would you add to the list?
Here are some additional sensory school tips from around the internet!