Transition times can be difficult for children and parents alike. Going back to school is often one of those challenges tied to a myriad of emotions. A good approach might be to instill positive experiences that encourage them to “bloom” like a flower. The base is the STEM and your child’s life is the flower. STEM is also a helpful way to remember how to make any adjustment a healthy lifestyle.
Structure: Routines help to make events predictable and feel more secure. Having a set wake up time, bedtime and scheduling the last few days before school starts can ease children (and parents) back into the swing of the school year. Fill in the blanks by giving updates on where you are in your schedule for the day. Meal times are a natural, built in opportunity to check in about what you’ve done and what will come next.
Transition: Talking about next steps can provide structure for a transition. Much like an advent calendar for Christmas, a countdown calendar for big events like returning to school can help younger children adjust more easily. Transition objects can also help. Make the object something comforting to your child that reminds them of a stable situation, like a teddy bear, or a lucky penny. Connect the message by saying: “Every time you touch the penny you can remember I’m thinking of you.” It helps to ground a child’s feelings to something real and tangible. (Even some adults use this technique in job interviews or other situations where they may be tense).
Expectations: Help your child set positive expectations anticipating the event. Plan what kind of new and fun times are ahead with their new teacher or schoolmates. Also set expectations for their behavior, such as: “Listen to your teachers, work hard on your school work and have fun at recess.” Keep it simple and keep it upbeat.
Modeling: Roz on Monster’s Inc. says your children are “always watching, always!” Children will emulate what you do, so practice what you preach. If you expect them to speak nicely you must speak nicely. If you have a child who comes home from school complaining about how much they hate school, listen to how you and other adults in their lives talk about work. Are you excited about going every morning? Are you talking about how great your job is? Are you modeling positive routines in your home life? School is your child’s “job.” Encourage them to enjoy it.
STEM is the foundation to help your child “bloom.” Most school-time jitters can be addressed through these four steps. If your child is really resistant displaying outright refusal, emotional melt downs lasting all day at school, self-harming behaviors or other actions which are out of the ordinary for your child, you may want to consider seeking professional help from a trained counselor.
These “calming exercises” might also help:
- Deep breaths: slow, deep, belly breaths. There are many fun engaging examples on YouTube and other websites.
- Happy Place: Take a few minutes to dream up a happy place. It can be real or imaginary, a place that brings you a moment of joy.
- Progressive Muscle Relaxation: Systematically tighten and relax muscles from your head to your toes while taking deep breaths.
- Hugs: giving hugs when leaving and returning help children feel reattached and loved.
- Laughing: The body does not know the difference between a fake laugh and a real laugh, so do it often! It’s always great therapy.
While there’s no one-size-fits-all, focusing on the STEM practices can help your child and your family make even challenging transitions smoother from start to finish.