So the summer holidays are officially over in Ireland and for some parents, it’s a good time to jump up and down and have a little celebration dance. Why? You may ask. The kids are goimg back to school, yeah! Most parents practically count down the days for schools to resume with excitement because the summer holidays here in Ireland can be a very long one ranging between two to three months ( depends on if your child is in primary or secondary school), so you can imagine how hard it must be to keep the kids or teens entertained over this perod of time.
Now while some parents are doing what I call “the back to school dance” with excitement, some are feeling anxious around this time because for some parents, it will be a child’s first time in school, in a new class, with a new teacher or perhaps in a new school if they’ve transitioned from primary school to secondary school and this can be a difficult time for some parents. For parents and carers with children with special needs, this is an even bigger cause of worry because as well as the reasons mentioned above, there are also worries about how the child will settle into the new routine in school, if he/she will be able to make friends, or whether the school choice was the right one for your child, if there will be adequate resources for the child in the school.
All of the above reasons are genuine causes to worry and there’s nothing wrong with that, my teens are all going into new classes in the same schools and I’m still worried about little things like: will they still have the friends they have now, will they like their new subject teachers, will their academic work be more stressful… my list is endless, but it’s ok to have some fears or worry about stuff like this because all of these are out of our control as parents, because when we send them to school, we leave them in the care of some other people whom somehow we have to trust that they’ll look after them and teach them well during their time in school. But how can we as parents and carers ensure that these worries or anxiety of ours at the start of the school year is somehow limited if not completely erased.
Prepare- get the things your child needs for the next morning ready the night before, for example, the uniforms, school bag, lunch box or bag, etc. This will help you to be organised and avoid forgetting something. Besides that’s one less job for the next morning.
Go to school- if it’s your child’s first day in school or he/she is going to a new class with a new teacher, you can go to school with that child to ensure he/she is well settled in class before you leave, some teachers can be very understanding and may let you stay a bit longer in the class, but make sure you ask if this is ok with the teacher.
Don’t be late- when it’s home time please avoid being late to collect your child. Nothing worse than a child waiting to be collected and looking around for a parent after the other kids have been collected.
Teacher’s photograph- some schools especially special schools or classes have a policy to send the pictures of every teacher, Special Needs Assistant or staff that will be working with each child so the child becomes familiar with those assigned to his/her class to avoid any anxiety that may arise due to unfamiliarity. I’ll encourage parents to ask for teacher’s photograph before school resumes or as soon as school resumes so you can start to discuss and remind the child that it’s ok to go into that teacher’s class. Please, parents avoid posting any teacher’s or school staff photographs that you may be given on any social media platform as they should be treated as confidential documents/images from your child’s school.
Schedule- Have a schedule for getting ready for school, you can make a visual one( if the child uses a visual schedule already) or simply explain to your child what’s expected of him/her before school, to avoid any meltdowns before school. However, this does not always guarantee that everything will go as planned, so be ready for any change in plan.
Be calm- school mornings can be stressful, waking up early, trying to get dressed on time, eat the breakfast, remembering to make and take school lunch, geez, it’s a busy time of day but remember to try and stay calm, because when you try to stay calm, it won’t matter too much if things don’t go as planned, you won’t freak out and that is so important because your child goes into school in a calm state also. From experience in working in schools, it is not a good thing for children to come into school stressed because they’ve been screamed and shouted at before they got into school, some kids become so upset that it takes a while to calm them down enough to enable them do any work in class. So the golden rule is stay calm.
Verify the resources- this subtitle almost sound like you should become an FBI agebt and do some undercover work. Quite the contrary, it’s pretty simple, for a child with special needs, make sure the resources allocated to your child is adequate and utilised appropriately. What I mean is, it’s not ok just to send the child to school without ensuring that he/she is given the allocated amount of time with either a Resource teacher , a Learning support teacher or an SNA. Ask the teacher or principal for a breakdown of allocated times. Be involved with your child’s learning progress.
Finally, give yourself a pat on the back. Getting your child to school, on the first day and every day afterwards is going to be a big task but at the end of each day or week, whichever you prefer, give yourself a pat on the back for a job well done.