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Back to School - Helping children to settle back in

Starting back at school can be really difficult after the holidays. Some small tweaks or changes can really help children to settle back in.

Posted on Thursday 02nd September 2021

No matter what age, going back to school after the holidays can be tough. Over the summer we get into new routines and changing these can be hard. Children (and adults) will have got used to being around family, having lots of cuddles, going to the toilet when they want, different mealtimes, being able to have an afternoon nap in front of a film, late nights, lie ins, playing with friends and probably not being told NO that often.

All of this changes in an instance. Especially for children, they often don’t see why they have to go to school, so it makes it that bit harder to understand the change.

When children in your class are struggling, it can help to stop, take a step back and look at the classroom through their eyes. Maybe it is the noise, the pace, lots of people, all the choices, or they might just be missing home. Whatever the reason, some small tweaks or changes can make all of the difference.

They may forget what you said, but they will not forget how you made them feel.

Feelings Mirror

Here are 15 ideas for ‘little things’ you could try that might help …

  1. Give a child a very important morning job so that they feel valued, needed and have a distraction when they get to school.
  2. Let them start the day in a quiet space, such as a reading corner or sensory space, to help them regulate and transition from home into the busy classroom.
  3. Invite them to come into the classroom a couple of minutes before the rest of the class so they can settle when it is quieter.
  4. Find opportunities to remind them they are important to you and that you value them. For example, at the end of the day you might say “don’t forget we need to do that special drawing together tomorrow” or “Let’s both have a think tonight what we could build next and I will look forward to hearing about it tomorrow”.
  5. Spend time at the end of the day telling your class what is on the timetable for tomorrow. (As adults we’ve all known that stress of turning up to a training day and not knowing what to expect). For particularly anxious children, try and send home a small visual timetable they can look at with parents.
  6. Keep routines as similar as possible each day, particularly times children find more stressful, such as lunchtime or lining up.
  7. Setup a calm or cosy space in your classroom where they can retreat to when things get too much. For many children, they will be used to a quieter environment at home and the noise of 30 children can become quite overwhelming. Let them know this is a space to go when they just need time to calm.
  8. Help them to build a bond with adults in school by telling them things about you, such as what you like, don’t like, family, pets. Children need to trust that adults at school can help them as much as adults at home.
  9. Dedicate time to ‘team building’ to help children develop class friendships.
  10. If a child is struggling to settle, try to tune in to what their behaviour is telling you. All behaviour is communication and children sometimes display their emotions differently. While one child might cry when they are missing home, another might scream and shout. Observe and ask yourself ‘what are they trying to tell me?’. Then try to support them with what they are feeling or seeking so that they can redirect their attention.
  11. Let them have a comfort or reminder of home that they can look at, listen to or touch when they need. It doesn’t even have to be in the classroom, sometimes just knowing it is in their bag is enough!
  12. Plan some 1:1 time with a key adult to help them form a strong bond with an adult in school.
  13. Have a range of different calming and soothing resources available for children to use as and when they need.
  14. Team up with home and praise or share success with the parents/family at pick up time. Children love to be praised in front of their grown ups!
  15. Consider their food and energy levels and whether they need a morning/afternoon snack. Depending on when they are having lunch, they might be getting hungry which is affecting their mood.

Every student can learn just not on the same day or in the same way.

George Evans

And don’t be hard on yourself when you have one of those days! You need to be in a good place to help them settle so give yourself some time to adjust too.

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