Back to School… and all the moms CELEBRATE!I mean, don’t get me wrong I’m going to miss those little wildlings but I’m ready for structure and routine again… and a little break for my grocery store bill. These kids eat ALL. DAY. LONG. Are your kids eating 3 snacks and 2 breakfasts before 9am? No? Just mine…?
As excited as I am about school starting again soon…. I know I’m feeling a little anxious because change is hard… and I have no idea what this year will bring. It’s a scary thought for us special needs mama’s to have to “start over” with a new year. Let’s face it all these kids have a little bit of shiny object syndrome, so at first, returning to school is probably going to be exciting for them. New school supplies, maybe a new backpack, reunited with all the peers they’ve missed over the summer… But once that newness wears off and the routine sets in… life gets challenging!
Getting a new school year off to a good start can potentially change a child’s attitude, confidence, and performance both socially and academically. So let’s talk about how we can help ease this back to school transition!
- Before school starts slowly transition to a “school” bed time. When the sun stays up late, so do the kids! At least that is what my 10 year old tells me! It can be easy to get out of the normal bedtime routine when there isn’t “school” to wake up for. A few weeks before school starts, begin to change summer bedtime to a school bedtime by heading to bed 15 minutes earlier every few days until you reach the desired time. Does your kiddo like to sleep in? Try the same routine but with wake up times. There is nothing worse than trying to rush a crabby kid out the door before school! A good nights sleep allows your child to prepare for a successful day at school.
- Get your calendar ready. If you follow me on social media, you know I love visual schedules. They are helpful for my kids but also they help me manage our time and schedule. Prepare your calendar with any special days at school, any days off or therapy appointments you may have. Post the calendar in a location where everyone can see it, so your children can refer back to it as time goes on. This also makes it easy to give kids a heads up about the plans for the day or the week so they know what to expect. Being able to anticipate a schedule is a great way of reducing meltdowns.
- Post visual get ready schedules in bedrooms, bathrooms and any other area where morning routines may seem rushed. Especially for kids who struggle with executive functioning, posting a morning routine or even a bedtime routine in multiple places where they will see it, helps everyone stay on task in order to move through that morning routine smoothly. Here is an example of our bedroom bedtime and morning routine.
- Let your children know you care. Ask them about their day, but don’t push. Try to avoid “how was your day?” and ask more specific questions like “did you have gym today?” “What did you play during recess?” Kids are more willing to open up to direct questions about facts, rather than a subjective question about feelings.
- Model positive behavior and coping mechanisms.Children absorb their parent’s anxiety, so model optimism and confidence for your child. Let your child know that it is natural to be a little nervous anytime you start something new but that your child will be just fine once he becomes familiar with classmates, the teacher, and school routine. Try to discuss positive things that you know they will be excited about. Play up the good, so we aren’t spending so much energy on the areas that cause anxiety. “It will be exciting to see Mason again this year! I wonder what he did this summer?” “Remember how fun music class was last year? I wonder if you’ll get to learn the recorder this year?” Again, being specific and avoid subjective feelings will help your child to open up.
- Try to give everyone a grace period.It’s normal for the first few days, or weeks even, to be a little rough. It can be easy to feel frustrated, so expect a grace period while everyone settles in. Sometimes, with younger children a transitional object can be helpful. This should be something small, a token even, that can be kept in their backpack as to not be a distraction in class. I’d suggest giving everyone 6-8 weeks to adjust to the new routine before making any big changes.
- Remain calm and positive.Acknowledge anxiety over a bad experience the previous year. “I can understand why you may be feeling worried over the new school year!” Children who had a difficult time academically or socially or were teased or bullied may be more fearful or reluctant to return to school. If you have not yet done so, share your child’s concern with the school and confirm that the problem has been addressed. Reassure your child that the problem will not occur again in the new school year, and that you and the school are working together to prevent further issues.
- Reinforce your child’s ability to cope.Discuss strategies that your child can use at school in the event they are feeling overwhelmed. Taking breaks, belly breathing, writing a letter home etc. Many of these things can be written into your childs IEP in order to help support them through an anxious time.
- Trust your gut.If your child demonstrates problems that seem out of the norm or go on for an extended amount of time, it may be time to call an IEP meeting or discuss more in depth with your child’s teacher or IEP team. They may be able to offer direct or indirect support that will help identify and reduce the presenting problem. You know your child best, and it’s your job to advocate for them when needed.
Are you worried about the upcoming school year? Join us August 21 at 8pm for a live chat where we talk about the top 10 tips for your next IEP meeting! https://www.facebook.com/events/328448971370737/
Need help navigating special education? Feeling overwhelmed at your child’s upcoming IEP meeting? Reach out so we can set your consultation. As a master IEP coach and advocate, I am trained to provide you with the education and a plan of action so you can walk into your next meeting feeling confident. https://www.facebook.com/NicoleSchlechterAdvocacy/appointments/