How to prepare your child for the return to school

Written by SENsational Tutors Ltd. 

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It’s the New Year! We’ve all eagerly waited for Christmas and now that it’s over it’s time to get back into our daily routine. This can be rather difficult, especially for children who may have become used to spending time with family, staying up a bit later than their usual bedtime, watching lots of movies and enjoying delicious Christmas treats and exciting new presents. Having enjoyed some festive ‘freedom’ it’s now time to get back to school routines and teachers’ expectations.

Getting back to work/school can cause anxiety to parents as well. Here are ten tips to help your family adjust back to the daily routine:

1. Gradually introduce an early bedtime routine

The kids may have enjoyed a later bedtime during the festive period. By gradually introducing an earlier bedtime the transition between the holidays and the return to school will be easier. Encourage your kids to go to bed early a few days before their return to school. This will help them get used to early mornings on school days. Remind them of their usual term-time bedtime routine, such as getting their clothes ready for the next day, or no screen time at least an hour before bed. Do this gradually over the first week back.

2. Talk to your child

Kids find it easier to adjust to a new routine if they know what to expect. Explain to your child that now that Christmas is over and you’ve enjoyed some lovely experiences together, it is time to get back to school and other daily activities. Remind them of the daily routine, such as school drop off and pick up, after school clubs, homework and everything else that happens during term-time. Talk about your own feelings about going back to term-time routine. To make the return to school a positive experience, ask your child the following questions: ‘what/who did you miss most during the holidays?’, ‘Who are you excited to see back at school?’, What are you most looking forward to doing when you get back to school?’, ‘Are you going to share your holiday experiences with your teacher and your friends?’

3. Let your child share their feelings without judgement

Ask your child how they feel about going back to school. Listen to what they say in a non-judgemental way and avoid criticism. Show them empathy and use positive affirmations such as ‘I know it’s hard to get back to school after the holidays’, ‘We are here for you if you find it difficult’ or ‘It’s OK to feel this way, you will get through this’.

4. Draw pictures or use social stories

Many children find it difficult to express their feelings. You can ask your child to draw a picture of how they feel about going back to school. This is a great tool to deal with anxiety. Look at their picture and try to find the message your child has tried to express. If you can’t figure it out, ask your child to talk about the picture and explain it to you. This could be a good starting point for a conversation about your child’s feelings and anxieties.

Alternatively, you could write a social story for your child. Known to be highly beneficial for children with learning difficulties including autism, social stories are effective methods to provide guidance and directions for responding to various types of social situations. You should ideally personalise it so that your child is the main character and your child’s specific school and teachers are mentioned.

Download an example ‘Going to School’ social story for free from our brand new Facebook group which was established today!: SENsational Support Group for parents – FREE to join!

5. Use Positive Holiday Experiences

Sit with your child and look back at your holiday experiences together. Look at pictures or special objects that remind them of the holidays and choose one they could share with their friends or teachers at school. Remind your child that although the holidays are over, you can still enjoy family time or trips together on weekends. Try to plan ahead for weekend activities or days out and put these in the diary, this will give your child something to look forward to.

6. Get organised

Don’t leave things for the last minute before going back to school! The school run and morning routine is already hectic. Get all uniform/ lunch boxes/ book bags ready the night before – and be consistent with this approach.
Ensure P.E. kits are ready for the first day back at school. Check with your child if there is anything else they need to bring back, such as library books they brought home before the holidays.

7. Use a comfort object

For toddlers or young children who find it difficult to get back to nursery or school, you can offer a comfort object that they can take with them. This is also known as a transitional object and is used to provide psychological comfort to children. This could be a blanket, a soft toy or any favourite toy that makes your child happy, or one of their new Christmas presents! This will make it easier for your child to adjust to the transition between home and school. Don’t forget to tell your child’s teacher about this object and ask them to allow your child to use it if they need to.

8. Avoid stress and make time for the new routine

On the first day back, try to wake up earlier than usual to allow enough time to get ready. Try to leave the house earlier than you would normally leave for the school run to allow enough time for early morning traffic.

9. Keep a positive attitude: look at the glass half full

Remind your child of the positive things that happen when they go back to school. Although the holidays were fun, they now get the chance to see all their friends again, enjoy play time at break and go back to their favourite clubs. By showing your child the glass half full in going back to school they will return with a positive attitude. Focus on the good experiences that they can look forward to, rather than those of the school holidays.

10. Remain calm

Your stress or anxiety levels as a parent have a direct impact on your child. Children absorb every emotion from those around them and it is important to help them feel secure. By remaining calm and confident your child will realise that they have nothing to worry about and that everything is under control. Even if you are concerned, try to maintain self confidence as this will help your child get through the transitions period.

While some children go back to school full of energy and motivation, others might find it difficult to fit back into school discipline and can feel really tired following the festive period. Whatever you choose to do, remember that the return to school is a process that could take days, or even weeks, to get used to. If you remain patient and flexible and acknowledge your child’s feelings, the return to school and daily routine will be much easier for the whole family.

Have a happy Spring Term 2019!


If you are concerned about your child’s difficulties or any particular behavioural changes that occur when they return to school, seek professional help.

At SENsational Tutors Ltd, we aim to inspire a love of learning through fun and exciting activities. Our tutors specialise in supporting children and young adults ages 3-25 in their Maths and English learning. We offer tailor-made behavioural support packages in London to transform the wellbeing of children and parents. This can be combined with additional learning support, if necessary.

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