- Make a schedule – make it visual (even stick figures work!)
- Set routines – morning, off the bus, after school
We all do best when we know what is expected of us and as many of you have probably noticed, children benefit from routine. Using a visual at home – like most classrooms would- helps children develop and follow these routines more independently. I often help support home routines in my session by drawing out simple stick figure schedules. I ask the kids what color shirt they want to wear and put the first initial of their name above the stick figure so they know it is them. You can do this similar to a social story dialogue (“When Timmy gets home from school he hangs up his backpack and takes off his shoes”) or as a simple set of pictures of a stick figure taking off shoes and showing the backpack on its hook. Have the child help you write the schedule so they feel important and gives them an appropriate amount of control.
- Be positive about school
- kids pick up on everything from tone of voice to words we think they won’t understand; stay excited, use positive words/language to talk about school
Many of us dread back to school from our own experiences as a child/young adult – as a parent you may feel differently and begin to count down the days until you have a little more time to yourself – however, whatever the feelings might be, make sure your children are hearing the positives. Use optimistic and encouraging language to approach subjects of school. Use a positive tone of voice – and talk about school expectantly for them!
- Talk about the people they will spend time with
- teachers, paraprofessionals, peers – use their names so kids get used to hearing them
All of these people will become very important to your child and family over the next few months, make sure to show your children how significant and respected they are! Again, keep it positive. Never talk badly about teachers and other professionals in front of children – especially not people we expect them to trust and respect. They hear and understand a lot more then we often give them credit for. Using the individuals’ names helps children remember them themselves and helps to enhance that relationship. (It is also a great trick for families and caregivers to remember them also – I know I can always use extra support for name recall!)
- Use school related play routines
- Sing songs like the Wheels on the Bus
- Play pretend school with stuffed animals, dolls or figurines – act out school routines like circle time, recess and choice time.
Make school a subject that you talk about openly and often. Setting up play scenarios can help children work through fear, routine setting, and may help them answer questions they might have. Talk with teachers about expectations during different classroom activities – circle time, recess, choice, etc. That way when you “act” it out at home you can follow the same structures with play. Bring out a play bus for kiddos who might be new to riding the bus to and from school and act out how it will go. Also, give the child a chance to be the teacher – it is always eye-opening to see what they say and how they behave when they are “in charge”.
Good luck and welcome back to a new school year – make it a great one for both you and your children.