For children, starting in a new class can be daunting and overwhelming. It can also be a stressful time for parents. Here are some tips on how to make the transition easier for everyone.
Try to visit the school beforehand
Having an idea of where they are going can help to ease anxiety for a lot of children. If possible, bring your child to see the school before they start. Lots of schools do open days or offer a tour. If this is not possible even just driving to the school so that your child can see the outside of the building and the playground can be helpful. Try to make this a positive experience for your child, be very enthusiastic about everything that you see and emphasize how fun it will all be, maybe even bring some treats or doing something nice afterwards to make it into a fun, memorable outing.
Show your child the school website
Most schools have websites where they showcase lots of the activities that the children do. Try to show your child the website and photos of the children doing things that your child would have an interest in. If the school has a uniform, this would also be a good opportunity to show your child the other children wearing them.
Ask how they feel
Children often have very different concerns to adults, so it is important to ask your child how they feel about going to school and if they have any questions. Try to phrase questions positively and avoid asking them if they are worried. Unless they seem anxious themselves, try not to reassure them by implying that there is nothing to be scared about; you may only be suggesting that there is something for them to be worried about.
Explain how the school day will work
For young children who haven’t been to school before adjusting to the school routine can take some time. Try to talk about this beforehand, bring the topic up in small bit-size chunks so that it does not overwhelm your child; trying to explain how the school day will work from start to finish might be too much for a small child to process. For example, when you are eating lunch, you could explain how lunch is likely to work in school.
How to support autistic children
For many autistic children, routine and predictability are very important for reducing anxiety. A change in school or even class can sometimes cause lots of stress for autistic children. Try to reduce this by preparing them for the change in advance as autistic children often cope better with change if they know that it is going to happen. Visuals and social stories can be very helpful for this.
Communication passports can be edited and personalized for your child. They are great to give to a new school/teacher so that they can learn about how your child communicates, what their sensory preferences are, what makes them happy and sad, if they are on medication or need assistance with feeding/toileting etc.
Another nice ides is to see if you can get a photo of the teacher and the classroom to show your child before they start school. Also, trying to do the journey to school a few times before your child starts so that they get used to the routine/environment can be helpful. If you do this
make sure that they understand that once school starts, they will have to actually go into the school; otherwise they may think that the routine is to travel to the school and then go home.
Put labels on all their belongings
Things easily get lost in schools and this can cause some children lots of upset. Make sure you put your child’s name on all their belongings to prevent this. This is especially important if it is a school with a uniform; having their name on their jumper will save the teacher a lot of detective work or possibly you from having to buy a new one.
Make a fun outing out of buying
new things for school
If you need to buy new clothes/books/stationary for school turn it into a fun family day out for your child. Let them choose some of the items themselves so that they have some new things that they are really proud and excited about using; something as simple as a cool new pencil or eraser can do the trick!
If your child has siblings in the school explain that they may not see them during the day. Try to ensure that your child understands that their sibling may be in a different classroom or expected to play in a different section of the playground. This is especially important if you have twins who may be used to doing most things together.