5 Back to School Transition Tips

By the time August rolls around, many parents are ready to get their kids back to school. The summer is great–and I’m sure you all made a ton of memories–but we get it, you want some time to yourself back. I’m also sure (coming from the Occupational Therapist in me) that your kids would benefit from getting back to the structure of school. Your kids will likely not agree with either of us here but the time has come anyway.

As you prepare for the first day back to school, there is a lot on your to-do list. This can include buying new school supplies, uniforms, backpacks, lunch boxes, and more. This is the exciting part for kids; everyone loves new clothes and a box of pristine crayons! The rest of this transition may not go smoothly for everyone. Some children have a much harder time transitioning back into school than others, especially children with special needs. Below are some strategies and tips that can help ease children into that transition and decrease the anxiety and worry for both you and your children.

  • Talk about the upcoming school year. Discuss things like seeing friends and teachers, field trips, things your child will learn, and the opportunities they will have. This will allow them to become excited thinking about the fun things to come and not feel as upset about being back at school all day. It can give them a positive outlook on the situation!

  • If you can, volunteer at school. Before the school year begins, look for volunteer opportunities that can work with your schedule. This way you can give your child the comfort of knowing that you will be going too! This will help reinforce that school is a fun place that mom or dad also want to go to, and perhaps the added benefit of seeing them while at school! If you already have a volunteer date scheduled, you can even tell them that so they can look forward to it too.

  • Have a calendar at home that your child can easily see and count down or mark off the days until they go back to school. This gives your child a clear visual understanding of how many days they have until school starts. This can help decrease your child’s anxiety about going back and help them prepare.

  • Contact your child’s teachers. Don’t hesitate to contact the teacher before the school year to let me know your child is anxious about returning. This way they are prepared for any emotions your child may be exhibiting. They also may have other strategies to help, or at least you can ask about their policy for your child to bring something of comfort into the class. You can also tell your child’s teacher a little about them (likes, dislikes, strengths, reinforcers, etc.) so that they can be prepared. This is something that can help you, the teacher, and your child feel more at ease to start off the school year.

  • Allow your child to bring a transition object (that is approved by the school or teacher). Allowing your child to bring something that gives them comfort (a stuffed animal, a picture, a small fidget toy) can help ease their anxiety about coming back to school. This way they can have a small piece of home to hold or look at when they need extra comfort. This is also beneficial for children with sensory processing challenges. If your child has specific sensory items that help calm them down, these are great for them to bring to school. This will allow them to regulate themselves in times that they feel overwhelmed.

    If you feel like your child could use help with transitions, please feel to reach out to us for more information!

    Written by Jenny Zapinski, MSOT, OTR/L

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