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Back to School

Starting kindergarten or returning to school is challenging for every family. There are new routines to master and schedules to adjust. Materials must be organized and tracked. At my house, we're working on all of this. So far, we've missed the bus several times and lost three water bottles plus a lunch box. That said, my daughter comes home every day with stories about her new friends and the adventures they have together in class (Apparently MadLibs are back in vogue). New situations are often even more difficult for families of children with special needs, and Reading Rockets provides some tips for addressing the logistics that come with special education.


Here are some ways to ease the transition:

1) Breathe Deeply. This is a learning process like any other. Mistakes will be made, and you will have opportunities to teach your children how to cope with the consequences. Show them that life is about finding joy in their growth and in your everyday existence, that life is more than juggling responsibilities. Most children experience some anxiety when transitioning into a new situation, so you will need to demonstrate skills for managing stress.

2) Plan Ahead. Don't leave for the morning what can be done the night before. This includes packing lunches, organizing homework and backpacks, and picking out clothes.

3) Practice Ownership. As much as possible, help your child take ownership of his or her morning routine. My kindergartener has a "Morning Routine" chart (example) with pictures and words that guide her through the process of getting ready for school. As the school year progresses, I *hope* to ask her less and less frequently which step she is on and what comes next.

4) Recovery. Expect your child to need naps and snacks at the end of the day. My daughter still comes home from school as exhausted as if she were spending every day swimming in the ocean. We're easing into after-school activities as slowly as possible while she adjusts.

5) Communication with School. Have a plan for checking in with your child's teacher. If you're a parent who drops off and picks up every day, this may seem trivial. If, like mine, your child rides the bus, email tends to work well for staying on top of school news.

6) Together Time. The flurry of activities that come with school can make it hard to find family time and one-on-one time with your child. Think about ways to work quality time into your routine in small, frequent chunks. Can you hang out at the school playground for 15 minutes during pickup? What about a walk around the block after dinner? Maybe you and your child can cook together? Whatever your family likes to do, make sure to take a few minutes each day to have fun together.

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