Old familiar routines give way to new ones, children are adapting to the demands of the school day that tell them when, where and what to play and do. Their world has expanded with new relationships, new social groups and greater cognitive demands.
There’s a lot to get used to, and those little bodies and brains have a lot of work to do – no wonder they can get tired and cranky at the end of the day!
While teachers and schools work hard to smooth the transition as best they can, at times, it can all be a bit much!
It is very common for children to “hold it together” for their teachers, only to “fall apart” at home, or even on the way home in the car. Understandably, especially for working parents, this can be very hard to take and wears on family harmony.
Sometimes the kids get so excited or worked up, they can take hours to settle, running into the late afternoon and evening, and even compromising their sleep (which only makes the next day all the harder)!
With some simple variations to the routine at home, the challenges can be eased. Here are a few ideas to consider:
- Use visual schedules – when life is hectic, or feels that way, visual schedules can reduce stress and anxiety. A visual schedule is best using pictures or icons which are more easily processed than words. Children will need help to learn how to use them – a key is to have 2 columns next to activities, one reading “To Do”, the other reading “Done”. If you use a magnetic board you can use magnets they get to move as activities/tasks are completed. Alternatively, you can have velcroed pictures of each task, and simply post them into a slotted box (young kids love this!!)
- Have a predictable routine – try to keep routines such as bed times and meal times as regular as you can. Used in conjunction with the visual schedule, this reinforces feelings of stability and security.
- Spend non-chore, non-homework time together – be available to cuddle up (or not) and talk about their day or anything else they’re want to chat about for about 15-20 minutes each evening.
Create a “chill out zone” – this is a quiet space where children can go to regroup. It can be in their bedroom or family room (not in front of the TV) and have their favourite music, quiet toys, books and a bean bag or soft cushions. Some children do best with a pop up tent or a home made “fort” (blanket over a table).
- Outdoor Play – For some children who are used to being out and about and physically active, some time playing outdoors can be just the thing. Just notice what kind of movement activities work best for them and for how long. Some children love lively physical play, but it only serves to increase their activity level and can make it harder to settle for the evening. In this case a little bit can go a long way.
- Chill Out Materials – Set up some after school chill-out materials such as listed in our free e-book “10 Top Tips For Calming Kids Quickly”.
- Real Chill Out Zone (literally)On hot school days the best way to settle may be a swim or a bath or shower – an outdoor version of a “chill out zone” could be a bed sheet hung over the line and hosed down with water – in the breeze it creates a protective cover from the sun and can be beautifully cooling place to sit and read or play quietly.
- Limit screen time. As tempting as this can be (and as much as they might seek it), it’s important for them to reconnect with you and to wind down after their busy day. Encourage drawing, reading together, word games, listening to music and quiet sensory play.
Helping your child make a positive transition to school takes a team approach – be sure to keep in touch with your child’s teachers and share your experience of how they are adapting to life at school. If your child continues to struggle with transitions from school after the first term, seeking a referral to a psychologist or occupational therapist may be helpful.