Starting back to school after a long, unstructured summer is quite a transition. This first month of school, multiple clients call daily trying to get an appointment for these back to school chaotic days. I always say for a typical kid, it takes a few weeks to adjust to school. For a child who is extra sensitive or anxious, it can take six weeks after each major transition (including Christmas holidays). For an extra reactive child with sensory issues, it can take what feels like most of the year, and then we start all over with a new teacher in the next grade.
Here are a few tips that I recommend to parents and practice myself as a parent:
Say “No” To Anything That Feels Nonessential
This rule applies to you and your child. Will you really be out of the loop all year if you miss that Open House on the first week of school? Does your child really need to go to Hell’s Circus, aka Spirit Night, to get pumped up about school?
Stay as low key as you can for as long as you can during this major transition. This is also not the time to sign your child up for soccer that starts on day three of a new school week. If you are barely making it with your regular routine, guard it with your life. As your child adjusts, you can add things.
Keep a List of School Stressors So That You Can Advocate
Because your child is more sensitive than others to sensory input, chaos, yelling, social situations, etc., you will have to be your child’s detective to help him/her succeed.
Your child also may not be able to explain what is happening, but if you pay attention and ask the right questions, you will figure it out—maybe the child your child is sitting with at lunch is a huge trigger, or maybe the science teacher yells at the kids—it will be the smaller things that other parents don’t have to worry about, but they are often easily mitigated with a quick email or teacher meeting.
Create Downtime As Soon As Your Child Gets Home
Even if your child manages to keep it together during the school day, she/he will have a meltdown at the tiniest trigger after school. Set downtime as part of your after school schedule. Do not set electronic time (your child may be sitting as lifeless as a statue, but this is super arousing to the brain). In our home, this looked like their first 30-minutes after coming home were spent in a quiet spot alone, eating after school snacks, and doing a quiet activity. I felt like both of my kids needed this downtime, not just my child with special needs.
– Dr. Melody Aguayo, Springible Contributor