Getting back into school

  • Family
  • Thursday, 16 Jan 2014

Some sensory tips that will enable children to adapt more easily to their new routine.

GOING back to school after the holidays can be difficult for children. Often, this is the time when children who have previously been happy to go to school, resist and become difficult. Remember, this is an emotional transition for your child, the excitement of something new is gone and the realisation that this is their life now, has set in. Help them navigate this new understanding by making sure their school day starts calmly and in a clear and organised way.

The motto of parents of tactile children is “energy in, energy out.” Make sure they eat healthy, long-lasting energy foods, rather than commercial sugary items. Breakfast is very important and their resistance to eating can make it tempting to turn to the refined sugar foods, but don’t.

Allow for time in the morning to either kick the ball around, or walk to school and get them there early so that they can run around a bit before having to sit still in class. Sleep is important for this sense, and they tend to need more than the other senses, so even though they will resist, make sure it’s an early bedtime for them.

Consider making a wall chart to illustrate what’s going on, and use lots of pictures, particularly if they are pre-readers. Your child will be very picky about how things look, and very sensitive to their peers’ opinions, so allow them to have a say in what they wear, choice of school bag and even how the lunch is packed.

I’ve met visual children who will refuse to eat a sandwich simply because it was cut into squares and not triangles. They will often find it hard to fall asleep in the first few weeks of school, so try to remove any visual distractions from their sleeping area and leave enough time in the morning for a relaxed breakfast and easy commute to school.

If your auditory child is having trouble remembering to do things, turn to rhyme to help. An evening rhyme for getting ready for bed, a morning rhyme for getting ready for school, and so forth.

Auditory children prefer the simple. Go for basic easy-to-match clothing, uncomplicated lunches, clear instructions as to pick-up and a routine that rarely changes.

Auditory children will need to talk about their day, both the one they have had and the one they are about to start. Find out as much as you can about their school routine so you can answer any questions they may have. Be aware that when an auditory child repeatedly asks (what seems to be) the same question, they are signaling anxiety about that particular issue. They need reassurance from you: answer the question, even for the umpteenth time.

Taste and smell children often find the transition between school and home difficult and even more so after they have had some holiday. They often suffer from separation anxiety. Organising play dates at home with friends during the holidays can help bridge the gap between school and home. With this sense, it’s the little things that count, so don’t be afraid to put a little note in their lunch box (nothing embarrassing) or go for ice cream on Fridays as a treat.

You can create a special card for the backpack, one that has all the family’s details, in case they need them (it’s a comfort thing). Try to arrange for a regular person they know and like to pick them up from school. Allow your child to bring a small comfort item to school, like a special pencil case, or a big girl watch.

> Priscilla Dunstan is a behavioural researcher and creator of the Dunstan Baby Language and author of Child Sense and Calm The Crying.

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Getting back into school


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