For any parent, the start of a new school term can come with equal parts relief and trepidation. While for some, the end of holidays means not having to juggle competing priorities of work and family time, most parents also worry about their kids at school. For parents of kids with disability, the return to school following an extended period at home can come with additional challenges. Here are some ideas to help your family ease the transition.
Whether you’ve taken a trip, or used the time off to enjoy a staycation, now is the time to start preparing yourselves and your little ones for the start of Term three. According to psychologist and James Cook University associate professor Dr Joann Lukins, as reported in the ABC, planning ahead can be beneficial for both parents and their kids. He goes as far as suggesting practicing your morning school routine before the new term commences.
1. Dive back into your routine
For kids who are sensitive to change, disruption to normal routines can be a big challenge. Create a back to school schedule that they can learn, including jobs they might need help with and others they can do independently.
The early morning rush can be a shock to the system after a couple of weeks of sleeping in. For the smaller kids, Dr Lukins recommends even going through the process of putting on the school uniform and packing a lunch before the first day back. If you can, stick to a regular time for meals or homework in the evenings so the kids can know what to expect and what’s expected of them.
2. Be open and honest about any concerns
Autism Awareness have also pulled together a list of their top back to school tips. In it, they recommend spending time talking with your child about how they are feeling about going back to school. Address any concerns they might have about going back to school and work out ways to tackle anxieties together.
One helpful strategy is to create a countdown calendar to mark off the days together until school is back. Your kids will get a regular reminder that the new term is approaching and have a daily opportunity to talk about it and acclimate to the idea.
3. Get some help to get organised ahead of time
Adjusting to the back to school routine is not just about the kids. There’s a huge amount of pressure on parents with school lunches, supplies and transport to consider. And that’s just to get to school. Homework, dinner prep and other household duties on top of a day at work often leave parents exhausted.
Consider engaging a little extra support to help you prepare and ease your own transition back. Support from someone like Kylie, an independent support worker from the Mable community who works with one family to prepare evening meals each week to relieve some parental pressure. Having a team of independent workers that you and your kids have developed a relationship with can help with a range of tasks from school pick up to weekend respite and after-school care. They can also help to step in when the unexpected happens.
4. Check in with yourself
In the ABC article, Dr Lukins emphasises the impact that a parent’s emotions can have on the kids who will often mirror any anxieties that you might be having. He recommends monitoring your own feelings so you can be aware if your stress may be rubbing off on the kids. If you have any new concerns, or have noticed a change in your child’s behaviour over the break, make an appointment to talk to their teacher about it so you can be comfortable their needs are being met.
5. Hype it up!
As you head into the second half of the year, talk to your child about any exciting projects on the horizon. Is there an art class they’re looking forward to returning to, or a school play they’re hoping to be a part of? Are they looking forward to seeing their friends again? Taking a trip to the shops so pick up some new clothes or school supplies or creating a fresh new homework space can help to build that positive excitement about the start of a new term. When it comes time to drop them off, help to quell that separation anxiety by remaining positive. As revealed here in Mamamia, early education expert and former school principal Simon da Roza warns against lingering too long. She suggests you opt for a quick ‘have a nice day’ over extended kisses and cuddles, which can create unease in the most confident child.
Mable helps you connect with independent support workers in your community and choose the people who suit your family’s needs best. Search the profiles of independent workers in your area today.