Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Tips for Transitions

Photo by Ross Findon on Unsplash
Daniel said, “Blessed be the name of God from age to age, for wisdom and power are his. He changes times and seasons, deposes kings and sets up kings; he gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to those who have understanding.” (Daniel 2:20-21 NRS)

The Back-to-School advertisements caught me by surprise. Is summer over already? The thermometer says otherwise, but the calendar is very clear. Teachers are setting up their classrooms. Families are fitting in last minute vacations and stay-cations. Transition is just around the corner.

Transition is one of the most challenging parts of parenting children with special needs. Once our kids are in the routine of summer it’s pretty great. Boredom pops up with too much time in the house, but overall, not bad. Once our kids are in the routine of school, that goes fairly well too (yes, there are THOSE days when that statement is not at all true). It’s that time in between with the anticipation of change, and then the change itself, that makes it hard. Being proactive can help that transition go more smoothly.
  • Help ease transition by creating awareness of when it is coming. Post a calendar for marking down the number of days until school starts. Encourage your child to communicate how they feel about the coming school year. Talk about school in a positive way, regardless of the services being provided through your child’s education plan.
  • If you know transitions are hard for your child, try to set aside extra time with them the week before and after school starts. Being a calm and available presence can help reduce anxiety.
  • Include your child in the fun parts of getting ready for a new school year. When I was a child I loved shopping for a new lunch box. That and a new pair of shoes. If crowded stores are overwhelming for a child with sensory issues they can help select items online.
  • Bedtime routines tend to shift in the summer with long hours of daylight and no alarm clock in the morning. Start a gradual transition back to the normal bedtime and waking time for the school year.
  • Plan for the worst, hope for the best. After the first few years of back-to-school I came to expect a call from the school at some point in the first week. I had to come to peace with the fact that transitions were hard for my child. Rather than feeling frustrated when the call came I focused more on problem solving with the school, grateful that they wanted to help him function better in a school environment.
  • Be consistent in your routine once school starts. The more consistent the new routine is, the easier it for a child to navigate through the time of transition.
  • Plan a fun activity for the end of the first week of school. It creates positive reinforcement and offers a goal for the week. Plus it’s a good reminder that the end of summer doesn’t mean an end to fun family time.
These are just a few strategies for an easier back-to-school transition. Please feel free to share other ideas in the comments.

Loving God, you are the master of changes, blending one season seamlessly into the next. Help us to order our lives so that we, too, flow with the changes. Help us find peace in times of transition. Bless all children heading to school with hope and confidence. Make all places of education havens of acceptance. Amen

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