The first day of school is not the first time that we prepare our sensory-sensitive children for what's about to happen. After a long summer, children are already getting used to a new routine and may be feeling anxious about the upcoming school year. Here are some things that you can do as a parent to help your child transition into a school schedule.
Preparing for School
Talk to your child's teacher about their interests and dislikes. It can be helpful to know what your child is interested in so you can help them focus on those things during the school day. Your teacher is your ally, so come up with ways to keep your child engaged in learning.
Talk about what is happening and the transition that your child will be making. It can be helpful to read social stories or look at pictures together that show what the first day of school will be like. This will help your child understand what to expect.
Even if your child has already been in school, after a long summer, it can be hard to go back to the school schedule, so when reading social stories incorporate what school is going to feel like. Exploring the schedule, talking about recess, lunch, school-specific subjects, and what the day would look like is a great way to prepare your child.
Consider using a visual schedule to help your child know what is coming next. This can be especially helpful if your child is easily overwhelmed and needs to know what is happening. Talk to your school to see if you can have the schedule ahead of time so you can prepare your child by talking about the schedule and the different activities that they will be doing in school.
Pre-First Day of School Activities
It can be helpful for your child to know what to expect so they are not surprised or overwhelmed by the first day of school. Many schools have events that lead up to the first day of school. Whether it is an ice cream social, a "meet the teacher" event, or a small social gathering, it's a great idea to bring your child to these events. This will help them feel comfortable and familiar with their surroundings.
You can also take this opportunity to walk the halls, see if you can play in the playground, use the bathrooms, and get a feel for the school. If your child is old enough, you can even talk to them about where they will sit in the classroom and help them find their desk. The key is getting them accustomed to the environment and surroundings of the school because the more comfortable they feel, the better they will transition.
Arranging Play Dates
A great idea is to arrange play dates with school friends. This way, not only will your child be more familiar with their surroundings, but they will also have a friend to help them transition into the school year. Having a friend can ease anxiety because it gives the person something to focus on other than their own worries and someone familiar to feel more comfortable.
In addition, social support can actually have a positive impact on mental health outcomes. So if you're looking for ways to ease your child's anxiety, consider spending time with friends – they may be just what your child needs on the first day of school.
When it comes to sleep and routines, getting kids to sleep at a reasonable hour can be difficult, but it's important to try. A good night's sleep is crucial for focus, concentration, and energy levels. When children are well-rested, they are better able to handle the challenges of the day.
There are a few things that you can do to help your child get a good night's sleep.
Establish a bedtime routine and stick to it as much as possible. This will help your child know what to expect and get them in the mindset of sleep.
Avoid screens before bed and instead opt for calm activities such as reading or taking a bath a few hours before bed.
You can also try using essential oils or white noise to help your child relax.
Start to get into a routine a few days or even weeks before school starts.
Use calming activities to help relax your child before bed.
Packing a Lunch
If your child is sensitive to certain textures or smells, consider packing their lunch with items that they are familiar with. This will help them feel comfortable and safe during the school day. It's also a good idea to pack a few extra snacks in case your child gets hungry during the day.
Food is another way to make your child feel comfortable and to bring a sense of familiarity to a new place. Pack nutritional foods, but also foods that the child loves and bring her comfort.
When children are well-nourished, they have more energy and focus to get through the day. A healthy diet can also help improve mood and reduce anxiety.
Uniforms or Clothes to Wear
Practice putting on uniforms since sensory-sensitive children may be triggered by certain textures. If your child is attending a school that requires uniforms, it's a good idea to start wearing them around the house a few weeks before school starts. This will help your child get used to the feel of the fabric and hopefully prevent any meltdowns on the first day of school.
If your child is not required to wear a uniform, you can still pick out clothes together a few days before school starts. This will help your child feel involved in the process and less anxious about what they're going to wear.
Most importantly, make sure that your child is comfortable and feels good in their clothes. If they are uncomfortable, it will be harder for them to focus and enjoy their day.
First Day of School
On the first day of school, it is important to have a plan. If your child is taking the bus, make sure they know how to get on and off the bus. If you're driving, consider driving to the school on a non-school day to practice what it will be like so that your child is not anxious.
When you get to school, walk with your child to their classroom, and know that you've done everything you could to help ease this transition.
Consider reviewing some important items on this blog to allow your home to prepare for this next year!
Sensory-sensitive children thrive on predictability and routine. So, the more you can do to help them familiarize themselves with their surroundings and the upcoming school year, the better. These are just a few ideas to get you started. Talk to your child's teacher, school psychologist, or other professionals like Kids Aboard Therapy to get more ideas on how you can help your child be successful in school. Have an amazing year ahead!