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back to school with ease

Transitioning back to school at the beginning of the year is a very important time for your child and your family. I recommend a review of current routines as these will undergo significant changes upon returning to school. Therefore it is a good time to fine tune this aspect of your family life.

Perhaps you could reflect on last year, what parts were challenging for you or your child? Were there particular times of day or activities which brought tension to the family? It is important to address any ‘hot points’ as these can impact your child’s wellbeing over time. For example, the child who arrives at school having gathered their belongings in the usual place, followed a familiar, easy to follow routine, with adequate time for self care tasks, will arrive feeling a lot calmer than the child who couldn’t find their uniform/homework folder etc, was rushed through breakfast and other self care activities, hears ‘Hurry up!’ again and again.. then rushes into class after everyone else has already sat down and organized their belongings.

For those of you familiar with the Alert program, I am sure you can guess which child’s ‘engine’ will be running higher. Parenting is a tough job, you cannot always expect to ‘have it all together’ but taking these steps may help to feel a little more in control as you prepare for what is hopefully a great year ahead!

  • Setting up some of the basics can make a big difference towards making things run smoothly in the mornings. Ensuring you have set places for uniform, library, swimming, homework folders as well as setting up writing materials and a clear area for homework.  
  • Start parts of the routine now, especially bed times and settling routines.
  • Visual timetables can be especially valuable for children with anxiety and/or sensory processing difficulties – this helps to let them know what is going to happen and when. This will give them a greater sense of control, especially at a time when going back to school and changing the routine.
  • Morning activities to build tone/core strength or sensory regulation (eg yoga) should begin well before school goes back. You may like to talk to your child’s OT for specific activities – it may be worth choosing some you can do with them – we all need a ‘wake up’ in the morning and a bit of help with our core as well!
  • It could pay to review their writing and sight words – kids can forget these over the break. Just a little bit of time spent at a low stress time of day can be great preparation to review some basics.
  • Screen time is recognised as impacting upon children’s attention and concentration as well as reducing physical activity. However other factors such as the content of the programs and exposure to aggressive marketing of toys may prompt you to reconsider the amount of screen time you allow. This passive activity can affect children with low tone and sensory processing difficulties as there are less movement opportunities to help regulate their system and build stability for tasks such as writing and sitting at their desk. Perhaps it is a time to reduce this during the week – or even cut it out altogether. Starting school can be a good time to reset the rules about this.
  • Don’t forget the booklist!

What about you?

  • How do you manage the home workload? Laundry- set space/routines, meal plans, groceries – simple strategies we all know, such as keeping a list on your fridge that you add to day to day can help you to reduce those extra trips that can cut into your time and your budget.
  • What about your own work? Are you taking too much on? If not, what can you step back from? A difficult one, but food for thought.
  • What about your fitness and health? If you were feeling rundown last year, perhaps this is the time to visit your GP or consider complimentary therapies to improve your immunity and capacity overall. My experience seeing many parents is that they can struggle to prioiritise their wellbeing. I would argue that your health has a significant impact on your child, if you are run down it is harder to put the time into your child’s homework or meeting their therapy needs (if required).
  • How do you manage chores for the kids, are they easily visible, are they achievable for your child, do they help you? Home based self management activities can be excellent for developing your child’s independence and self management skills.

By giving you and your child the gift of a smooth routine both before and after school can provide a calm, stable home for your entire family. Taking time out now to think about these may make a significant difference for the coming year.

Happy new year!

Sarah Broderick
Occupational Therapist