1. Shopping Anyone? This is a great time to build some excitement around the return to school by creating a fun shopping experience for the new school year. Letting your child pick out the school supplies this year can help him get ready for the transition time of back to school. Create mock school days, which will act as a bit of a trial run for this year’s routines.
2. Write it down! Create an enjoyable social story featuring your child and the school year ahead. Focus on some of the things that will be familiar to your child. This will minimize any nervousness at returning to school. In addition to writing what will be familiar, explain and write down the things that could possibly be different as well. Include pictures of your child wearing new clothes for school or a new backpack?
3. Ready-Set-Go, Count down! Use a calendar to help keep track of the days until school starts. This is a great way for you and your child to be better prepared. Make sure you highlight the first day of school and mark off each day as the days get closer to the first day of school. If you discover that your child is experiencing some anxiety, taking him to the school and allowing him to get used to looking at the school is a great idea. Encourage him to play in the playground if possible. This is perfect if your child is attending a new school that is unfamiliar.
4. Pay a visit! We are about two weeks away from the beginning of school, so after your fun filled day in the play ground try to arrange an actual school visit. Go to your child’s classroom. This will allow him to get check out the layout and get comfortable with the room. Use this as an opportunity to take a few photos that you can share with your child later or even add to your story.
5. Meet the Teacher! Set up a meeting with the teacher if possible. This will allow you and your child to have a little bonding time before the school year starts. If there are additional staff members that will be teaching your child, such as a special education teacher or paraprofessional, it would be a great time to meet them as well. This may be a great help in alleviating any anxieties that your child may have about his teachers for the upcoming school session.
6. Get on the same page! If there is an IEP or 504 plans, take time to look it over. Also, if possible, request a meeting with the teaching team that created it and an administrator. This will insure that you are all on the same page; this will alleviate YOUR anxiety as a parent.
7. Map Your Routine: Wait about a week before school is due to start and familiarize yourself with your upcoming routine. This is win-win for you and your child. Record your steps in a journal. Make sure you write down every step from start to finish.
8. Share, Share and Share some more! Talk to your child, share your story again, and look at the pictures together. This will give your child the opportunity to discuss issues, plans, hopes, concerns and/or worries.
9. Add more to your story: Remember the social story you wrote with your child? Well, if your child is having any concerns, issues or anxieties take time to add it to your story; maybe even find additional images, which may help to address their concerns.
10. It’s TIME! After school begins, start working to establish a schedule that integrates school and afterschool activities. Make sure you make your child’s at home follow a steady and predictable routine. This could counteract any unpredictability that he may have experienced during his school day.
11. The Positive Talk: Encourage your child with positive talking points to help build their confidence. Have him say ” I am Awesome” , “I can make awesome new friends” , ”I can smile as bright as the sun, I can make my friends smile brighter.” This will surely bring a smile to your child’s face and yours.
12. Keep Talking! Make sure you keep talking to your child; it is imperative that you keep the lines of communication open. Talk to him often about his day, what was great what was not so great, how he feels about what was great or what was not so great.
These steps will make the process of returning to school, getting use to a routine and having discussions about school a win-win for you and your child.