Flashback to 2017 and “WOW”. It seems like only yesterday I was attending his kindergarten graduation and stressing over what Primary school would hold for him. How would he ever cope? How would he fit in? Would he make friends? Hit 2017 and he is now starting High School. How did that happen? How would he cope academically? How will he find his classes? The school is so big how will he not get lost? Coping with high stress and anxiety is hard enough in a world where he feels safe and loved how will he ever cope in High School? Jump ahead to 2019 and here he is, Year 9 at high school and managing his anxiety.
As a parent it can be hard to let go and even harder when your child has special needs and high anxiety, but, the transition can be made easier for all involved with some simple management strategies. Below are some of the strategies I used to help my son with that successful transition.
- Colour code all books, timetable and school map. When purchasing stationery items, colour code them to match your child’s timetable. eg: purchase green exercise books for Math and blue for English and then colour their timetable to match. When they need to grab books from their overflowing locker this will make it a lot easier for them to identify which books are needed.
- Print off and laminate two of your colour coded timetables. One for the inside of their locker and one for home.
- Print off a copy of the school map and colour code accordingly. Also highlight other areas of interest including the canteen, toilet area and student office or other area that they can go to when they need assistance.
- Label everything. In a school of 1000+ kids all wearing the same uniform and carrying the same school bag, items are easily misplaced or lost. Purchase a key tag or other identifying item to attach to their school bag so it can be easily spotted.
- Familiarise yourself, and your child, with the school’s online communication app. Here you will find items such as newsletters, a calendar of events and their timetable with any changes that may occur including staff absences and room changes. This app is also used as a communication portal where you can report your child’s absences and communicate with their teachers.
- Bring back their bedtime routine and slowly bring the bedtime hour back. If you have been letting your kids stay up later over the holidays bring their bedtime back slowly. Start about 5 days before the return of school and just bring their bedtime back by 15-20 minutes earlier each night and their waking time by the same amount of time each morning until they are back to their normal school time sleep schedule.
- Don’t leave everything to the last minute! Encourage them to pack their school bag and have their uniforms washed and ready to go a couple of days in advance. If your child has a study area or desk, make sure this is clean and tidy and ready to go also. (Bonus if you can get them to clean their rooms!) Have the school lunch and snack ingredients on hand and ready to go. Watching you rush around and listening to you stress the day before will not ensure a calm transition to school for anyone.
- Last of all listen. Listen to their concerns and worries. Don’t dismiss their concerns as trivial and don’t push them aside so as YOU do not have to worry about them. Listen and together, come up with a list of strategies to help them cope. Eg: Breathing exercises, meditation, counselling.
High school is full of everything “new”. New teachers, new subjects, new friends, new uniform and new responsibilities all of which can be stressful to the most even-tempered and relaxed child. The above strategies will help empower your child, giving them the tools necessary to face this new venture and to help develop the resilience needed to tackle anything new that comes their way.
For further information on other stress and anxiety management strategies, please do not hesitate to contact me here or via my website, details below.
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