The transition out of summer activities and schedules and back to school is often difficult for kids (and sometimes for parents too!), and for many kids, can be quite anxiety provoking. For kids who struggle with mental health concerns such as anxiety, depression, ADHD, autism, or other mental health issues, school can be particularly difficult as they may struggle to fit in and to adjust to the school routine and schedule more than other peers their age. It is important to discuss the upcoming changes and talk about any worries your child may be having. Empathize with your child’s concerns and provide reassurance and support. Ask your child to identify any struggles they may have had in previous years and discuss what can be done differently this year to avoid similar occurrences. If your child sees a mental health clinician, discuss any concerns about school with them so they can address this in session and can provide your child with useful coping strategies and tools to assist them in managing the transition.
Tips for successful school transitions:
Create a daily schedule with clear and consistent routines WITH your child. This will help him/her in learning effective time management and problem solving skills. Establishing consistent routines helps your child know what to expect and make the transition easier. Talk about what the school day/night schedule will look like.
While it is important to oversee your child’s routine and offer assistance when needed, let them build confidence and autonomy by not micromanaging their routines and dictating the way they perform each task.
Build a time cushion into your routine/schedule in case something takes longer than expected to help reduce anxiety of being late, missing the bus, etc…
For kids who struggle with time management or cognitively shifting to the next task, provide incremental reminders of time left before they need to move on to the next task (this can be done verbally, using timers, alarm clocks/watches, etc…).
Preplan coping strategies to manage anxiety in different situations (think about what has been difficult in the past)
Create a map and plan for getting to classes. Pull up a picture map/blueprint of the school or have your child draw a picture of the inside of their school. Have them draw the route(s) they will take to class(es) each day.
Implement the daily schedule (particularly bed/wake times) approximately one week prior to school starting to assist in adjusting to the change and to work out any kinks in the schedule.
Integrate school-like work using games (i.e., banana grams, scattegories), apps, coloring pages, flash cards, mazes, crossword puzzles, etc… Use activities that are quiet and require some thought and/or problem solving to help get their minds back into the swing of school type work.
Visit the school with your child if possible and locate their classroom, meet their teacher, test out their locker, and check out anything that is new so it isn’t a complete surprise, and thus anxiety provoking, when they begin school.
Notify your child’s mental health clinician of any concerns regarding the transition back to school so the clinician can address this with your child. If your child does not have a mental health clinician, consider scheduling them an appointment to assist them in developing useful coping strategies to manage the transition successfully.
Let your child’s teacher know about any mental health issues or learning disabilities your child has been diagnosed with and point out specific symptoms, strengths, and growth areas which may impact your child at school.
Sign a release of information to allow your child’s teacher and mental health clinician to collaborate. Your child’s clinician can assist the school in understanding your child’s particular areas of concerns and can recommend accommodations or specific coping strategies that may help your child. The school can also provide useful information to the clinician about behaviors/symptoms they observe that the clinician can best assist your child.
***If you have concerns regarding your child’s transition back to school or your child is struggling with mental health symptoms contact us at Tandem Mental Health Associates, Inc. to schedule an appointment. We can help your child learn strategies to manage their thoughts and feelings and assist with the adjustment. The clinicians at TMHA can provide you and your child with additional support to help you navigate the transition, can collaborate with your child’s school, and attend IEP/504 meetings to assist in creating support plans for your child at school.Please take a look at our website (which is currently under new construction), give us a call, or set up a free 10 minute consultation to see if one of us can provide the service you have been seeking. We truly look forward to networking within the community and continuing to provide services to those in need.
Dr. Robyn Nunley, Ph.D., L.P.C
Dr. Ariel Ham, Psy.D., Resident in Psychology
Selisha Nelson, M.S.