Back To School: Help Your Child Adjust After A Long Break

While everyone enjoys a break from school, the return to routine can be a big adjustment for kids — especially those with special needs or distinct sensitivities.

The good news? With a little planning and preparation, you can make the transition back to school smoother and less stressful for everyone involved!

Why is back-to-school tough for kids?

It can be tough to accommodate change, especially during childhood years — even the smallest change can feel like a huge thing for kids. It’s fairly normal for your child to feel a bit apprehensive about the sudden shift from a relaxed and fun vacation schedule to the more rigid structure of school. 

For children with special needs, these feelings can be exacerbated even further. Difficulty in transitions is a hallmark of autism, for example. Children with other developmental delays, anxiety, or sensory processing issues may also face additional hurdles when routines change.

How to prepare your child

The key to a smoother back-to-school transition is to increase your child’s comfort level with what’s about to happen. The more they know what to expect, the less anxious they will feel.  You can do this by preparing from the time you’re still away down for your vacation to the night before school starts. 

During vacation

Preparing your child while still on your breaks will help them feel more comfortable when the transition starts.

  • Maintain a semblance of a routine. This doesn’t mean sticking to a rigid school schedule but trying to keep consistent wake-up times, mealtimes, and bedtime routines as much as possible.
  • Keep them engaged. Avoid too much-unstructured downtime and plan activities, outings, or even educational games to keep your child’s mind active.
  • Don’t let homework pile up. Encourage your child to complete their assignments on time and not postpone them to the last minute.
  • Set boundaries with electronics. Enforce clearly defined boundaries around your child’s use of gadgets—but make sure not to make them think they’re getting punished. 

The days before school 

The days before school starts are prime time to make further preparations with your child. Here are some ideas you can implement:

  • Factor in recovery time. If your vacation is action-packed, consider scheduling a few days for relaxing with your child before diving back into school routines.
  • Adjust sleep schedule gradually. If possible, start shifting bedtime and wake-up times a few days in advance to ease your child back into the school sleep rhythm.
  • Tell stories. Utilize social stories to familiarize them with what they can expect upon their return to school.
  • Do role-play. Act out different scenarios your child might encounter at school to help your child re-tune.
  • Pack together. Let your child pack their own backpack to build up their excitement.
  • Do self-care. A well-rested and patient parent is far better equipped to handle potentially stressful transitions.

The night before school

A calm and proactive night before can make a big difference in your child’s back-to-school experience. Hopefully, by this point, your child will be feeling reasonably comfortable and at ease thanks to your previous efforts.

Here are tips on how to set the tone:

  • Let them choose their outfit or prepare their uniform. This small act of control over what they wear can help them feel more confident.
  • Pack a comfort object (if allowed). A familiar stuffed animal or small toy from home can provide a sense of security.
  • Review the schedule and classroom expectations. Talk to your child about the school before going to bed.
  • Get a good night’s sleep — this goes for everyone!

Remember, transitions can be hard—but they don’t have to be a negative experience for your child. With some planning, and these helpful tips, you can prepare your child to feel more comfortable and confident as they head back to school!

If you have any questions about these, or any ABA-related topics, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us. We’re always happy to help!

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