Back to School Part 1

As our children head off to start their Autumn Term this blog focuses on those “little” things
we can do that make a “big” difference in helping them adjust to their new routine.

As our children head back to school and extra-curricular activities, they are facing a lot including
daily separation from those they are deeply attached to which can bring alarm to their bodies and
subsequent displays of sometimes challenging behaviour. For those of you that have experienced
the regular ‘big’ feelings that are released ‘after-school’ you will know too well what I am referring
to.

This will of course be different for every child, it might look like crying, anger, whining, defiance or even stubborn silence. This is sometimes referred to as after-school restraint collapse.

Navigating the school day takes effort from every child. Hours spent sitting still, listening carefully, learning new things, managing relationships, facing discipline, following instructions – it all takes mental, physical and emotional work. 

While school and the separation it requires can affect any child, for children with additional needs, sensory difficulties, anxiety and other challenges, it can become even harder. 

Now for the good news! There is so much that you are most likely already doing that you can tweak and maybe do more of that will help reduce the difficulties your child is facing during their school day. This article is going to discuss one of those tools and look out for more in the next two parts of this series where we will look at ‘the Story of Tomorrow: Previewing the Day’ and ‘Bridging Separation.

The rhythm of our days, weeks and months and the rituals that punctuate them are incredibly powerful in giving our children a sense of safety, security and predictability as they go about the school routine. Rituals are not just reserved for those religious occasions but those daily rituals we have in our families, often without even realising. As a parent have you ever noticed that a change in your rituals can throw you off kilter?  it could be as simple as missing our morning coffee or our partners forgetting to say goodbye before heading to work and we are left spinning.

The predictability of rituals can be an anchor for your children offering them an incredible sense of comfort especially at times when their routine may be unpredictable such as a new teacher at school or recently separated parents meaning two different homes and routines to settle into. 

Children actually find ‘physical and psychological rest’ in these rhythms and rituals. Research has shown that the simple act of taking part in daily rituals will activate the ‘rest and digest’ part of our nervous systems, a real antidote to the alarm response of the sympathetic nervous system that is responsible for “fight and flight” and some of those after school behaviours mentioned earlier.

The same goes for having a consistent rhythm to the day where possible. Displaying your children’s daily rhythm at home can be very helpful, especially if you can put up some images or photos to go alongside the events in the day. Younger children especially benefit from this but it can be reassuring to all ages.

Can you see if there is any room for more consistent rhythm to your days or some ‘micro’ rituals that can easily be put in place? Here’s a few examples from parents I have worked with…

 A new song at bedtime/morning/brush teeth time?

 The same song/audio book in the car at school drop off/pick up? 

A little hand massage at bed with lavender cream? 

Light a candle at dinnertime?

I hope you have found this helpful, I cover this in more detail in my 5 step program, please do reach out to me if you would like more information or have any questions about coaching.


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