Child Sense: Smoothing out the highs and lows of back-to-school time

Priscilla J. Dunstan

Back to school – a time both loved and dreaded by children and parents alike. Being back at school will bring out the extremes in your children.

Tactile children will need more physical contact and cuddles, visual children will be more particular about how things look, auditory children will chatter more, and taste and smell children will be more clingy. This is all part of the process and very normal! Be kind, calm and respectful and your child will settle in a few weeks.

Visual children will benefit from a visually based school schedule. Consider making a wall chart to illustrate what’s going on, and use lots of pictures, particularly if they are pre-readers. Your child will be very picky about how things look, and very sensitive to their peers’ opinions, so allow them to have a say in what they wear, choice of school bag and even how the lunch is packed. I’ve met visual children who will refuse to eat a sandwich simply because it was cut into squares and not triangles. They will often find it hard to fall asleep in the first few weeks of school, so try to remove any visual distractions from their sleeping area and leave enough time in the morning for a relaxed breakfast and easy commute to school.

Auditory children will need to talk about their day, both the one they have had and the one they are about to start. Find out as much as you can about their school routine so you can answer any questions they may have. Be aware that when an auditory child repeatedly asks (what seems to be) the same question, they are signaling anxiety about that particular issue. They need reassurance from you: answer the question, even for the fourth time. If your auditory child is having trouble remembering to do things, turn to rhyme to help. A rhyme for getting ready for bed, a morning rhyme for getting ready for school, and so forth. Auditory children prefer simple. Go for basic easy-to-match clothing, uncomplicated lunches, clear instructions as to pick-up and a routine that rarely changes.

Tactile children are all over the place for the start of school. The excitement of all those playmates in one spot and one has to sit still? The motto of parents of tactile children is “energy in, energy out.” Make sure they eat healthy, long lasting energy foods, rather than commercial sugary items. Breakfast is very important and their resistance to eating can make it tempting to turn to the refined sugar foods, but don’t! Allow for time in the morning to either kick the ball around, or walk to school and get them there early so they can run around a bit before having to sit still in class. Sleep is important for this sense, and they tend to need more than the other senses, so even though they will resist, it’s an early bedtime for them.

Taste and smell children often find the transition of being back at school difficult. They often suffer from separation anxiety. Introduce them to another child they can look after at school, arranging play dates as soon as possible. Allow your child to bring a small comfort item to school, like a special pencil case, or a big girl watch. With this sense, it’s the little things that count, so don’t be afraid to put a little note in their lunch box (nothing embarrassing) or go for ice cream on Fridays as a treat. You can create a special card for the backpack, one that has all the family’s details, in case they need them (it’s a comfort thing). Try to arrange for a regular person they know and like to pick them up from school.

Remember this is a transition for your child, even if they attended school last year. This year they will have a new teacher, new classmates and will need to get reacquainted with old friends. They need to adjust to the more regimented routine of school _ in the mind of a 5-year-old, summer is a long time. Make sure they get plenty of sleep, eat healthy food and have an outlet for their sensory tendencies.