Looking for some suggestions to support the transition back to school? Here are just a few things you might think about during this time:

  • Walk the route to school. You can take a comforter with you to provide further support. You can also ask them to think of 5 things they can see, 4 things they can hear, 3 things they can touch, 2 things they can smell, 1 thing they can taste to help reduce anxiety on the walk.
  • Arrange a play date or visit a park near school. Meeting peers ahead of the first day back can help reduce anxiety.
  • Reduce the sensory demands of school uniforms. Whether it’s cutting labels off, buying seam free underwear or buying loose fitting styles – this can be one less stressor for the child to deal with on a school day. Think about your child’s sensory preferences.
  • Talk positively about past successes. Remind your child of things they can do now, which they used to find challenging, for example, riding a bike or swimming. This can help build their confidence about overcoming new challenges and provide hope that they will be successful one day.
  • Maintain the connection between home and school. Use transition objects on school days, read The Invisible String, make a collage of words, drawings and photos of key people and objects associated with home and school. Emphasise family as the safe base that children start the day from and return to after school.
  • Build in regulation breaks. Returning to school routines is exhausting. Make sure your child has time to recover – physical movement, time to watch favourite TV shows, down time with toys. Whatever helps your child to find their balance. Perhaps, make a regulation box full of activities and ideas to help your child de-stress and suit their sensory needs.
  • Visit the school website or read any transition information. Take a virtual tour of the school and watch any videos introducing teachers with your child. Talk about happy memories and things they have in common with teachers.
  • Role play typical situations from school. Take time to practice likely conversations. How do you greet your new teacher; what do you say if someone asks what did you do this summer; what might you ask a classmate; what do you say and do, if someone doesn’t want to play? Rehearsing beforehand can help your child prepare.
  • Use visual supports to enhance communication. Work with your child to make a before and after school checklist. Having pictures can aid processing. Marking events on a calendar can help too.
  • Maintain routines to provide a sense of stability during the change. What routines can you keep the same throughout the transition? Being able to predict what is coming can reduce anxiety eg Breakfast is cereal, Gran visits on Tuesday.
  • Think developmental age not stage. Don’t compare your child to peers or assume that because it’s a new school year, they can do more. Build in supports initially and gradually reduce supports as your child gains confidence. Children especially need support around executive function skills – planning, organising, starting, regulating. This is particularly relevant advice for those children starting high school.
  • Give yourself enough time. Allow even more time than you think you’ll need for the morning school routine. Providing time to think means you can respond more calmly and avoid escalating any difficulties.

There are lots more suggestions and resources on our Adoption UK website.

Remember too that Let’s Learn Together has lots of strategies and tips for parents and educators.