The summer is ending and a new school year will be starting soon. This may be a stressful time for some children. Most anticipate the school year with a mix of uncertainty and eager enthusiasm. A new year, a new class, seeing old friends and a new teacher all add to the excitement.
For some kids the level of anxiety they experience is far beyond the average child and therefore they will need some accommodations, or transition activities, to help them cope. Parents can do a number of things to make school entry less stressful.
The most important thing parents can do is talk with the child, regardless of their age, about the start of school. If this is not the first time such anxiety has occurred it is important for parents to prepare before this challenge surfaces.
During an appropriate time (before bed, at the kitchen table, playing catch, playing a board game or going for a walk) the parent can start a conversation to determine the child’s concern with the return to school. Some knowledge of CPS would be an advantage although if this is not the case simply having a conversation is helpful to begin the process. Remember it is important to stay regulated (calm) and not focus of the challenging behaviour ( crying, clinging to the parent or reluctance to cooperate) related to getting to school. The parent might start by saying, “Summer vacation is ending soon and I noticed last year there was something hard about starting school. Help mom/dad understand why you think that is…” Give the child time to respond. If the child has difficulty or is unwilling to respond you may have to come back to this at another time. If the child’s response is limited you can help encourage them by asking questions, taking guesses, clarifying and reassuring the child. Buy trying to clarify the child’s concern the parent and child can engage in Collaborative Problem Solving. Some of the solutions that might be suggested will be things that can be done at home. There may be some suggestions, that need to be done at school. In this case it would be good for the parent to have a conversation with the school principal. The child’s age and grade will determine what is most appropriate. I have listed some strategies we’ve used in the past to make the transition to a new school year less stressful.
-go in and speak with the principal to help create a helping relationship and engage him/her as an advocate at the school
-tour the school grounds, the school and the classroom, the gym, library washrooms, bus area and entry/dismissal door
-if the teacher is available arrange a meeting to visit the class, see the child’s desk and locker or cloakroom ‘cubbie”
-older students can receive their timetables and meet their teachers in advance
-it often helps giving the child special seating and locker locations, and arranging a buddy
-if this has been a problem in the past or if the Special Education teacher has given support in the past then perhaps an entry plan should be in place to reduce the challenges
-once again involving the child in the problem solving by coming up with ideas together will make the success of your plan more effective
Regardless, all the anxiety may not be eliminated although with some discussion to determine the child’s concern, and then involving the child in the problem solving parents help to build the child’s skills, enhance the helping relationships and reduce the challenge of getting back to class.