It's hard to believe that summer is ending and a new school year is about to begin. Each year brings about changes for all of us, and this year The Meeting House will experience its own changes by moving to a new location at the Gaynor School. In addition, we are starting a new program for younger children, TMH Juniors! While we are very excited about these changes, it has gotten us thinking about how we can make these transitions as smooth as can be for the kids who are a part of The Meeting House. Likewise, as you start checking things off your "To Do" list for this new school year, here are some things you can do to help your children get ready for whatever school adventures awaits!
1. Talk to your child about the new school year and what to expect, what will be the same and what might be different. It is okay for kids to be anxious about a new school year, and this is the perfect chance to get them familiar with the changes that lie ahead.
2. Get your child excited about school! When you get this year’s school supply list, let your child be an active participant in picking out these supplies at the store, and have them help you pack it all up in their backpack before the first day.
3. Think about starting a ‘first day of school’ tradition. One of our favorites is meeting up with a good friend after school for a special treat to talk about their first day.
4. If your child is starting at a new school, be sure to check it out before Day 1. If you know another child who is already in the school, see if you can arrange for them to go on the tour with you and act as a buddy for your child. Change can be scary for many kids, but it can be especially tough for a child with sensory or social difficulties.
5. As soon as you know your child's teacher assignment, share that with your child. Find a picture of the teacher on the school website so they know their face before walking into the classroom. A ‘familiar’ face can be very comforting on the first day of school.
6. If you get a class list, go over it with your child, especially if your child is older and returning to their former school. Each year classroom assignments can change, and there may be some disappointment to not be in class with a special friend or friends. Try to schedule a play date before school begins with some of his or her classmates, both old and new.
7. Get your child into the rhythm of school mornings, including consistently getting up on time, and do a trial run of your morning commute. Proper sleep and familiar routine can go a long way toward minimizing anxiety and making the start of school a successful one.
8. For younger children, it may be difficult to just talk to them about the changes that are coming up. Consult with your speech therapist, occupational therapist or special educator about creating a social story to help your child gain a better understanding about what they might experience when school starts.
9. If you have a child who has a difficult time talking about change, there are a lot of great books out there that you can read to your kids. The great thing about books is that kids can find something they relate to and see how the characters work through those difficulties with success. You can use these books as an opportunity to discuss your child's worries and how they can work through some of the situations they are nervous about. Goodreads provides a great list of books for all ages.
10. Extracurricular activities play a huge role in your child's school year! Some students work with private tutors or therapists after school, but keep in mind how important after-school activities are that include socialization. Try and find a program like The Meeting House in your area, one that promotes Fun, Friendship and Community, and teaches children that the only way to have a friend is to be a good one.
Meghan Corridan is an NYC-based pediatric Occupational Therapist and the Co-Director of Juniors & Weekend Programs at The Meeting House.