This time of year, at least in Indiana, marks the end of summer and a new school year for many people. The beginning of the school year is usually an exciting transition for many but for highly sensitive persons, it can be exciting AND difficult! Because of this, I like to write about transitions this time of year because going back to school is such a huge transition for so many people.
To add to this, it’s beginning to look like masks will again be a requirement for the school year. Even though I know everyone was hopeful that it would be a more normal school year, with no masks, the Delta variant is going to make that difficult.
Helping children adjust well to transitions helps increase their emotion regulation skills, helps them stay calm and reduces their overall stress. Here are a few tips that help with transitions this time of year, especially for highly sensitive children:
Create a good routine
Most children do better when there are clear expectations and predictability to their days and weeks. The more you can create the same expectations for a before and after school routine, the easier it will be to make the transition of going back to school. As children get older, it’s a good idea to let them have more say in their routine. For example, I used to make my younger son get up 30 minutes or so before the bus, and it was usually a battle. One day, and by accident, we learned that he only needed about 7 minutes to get ready and out the door. Once we learned this, he got himself up and ready and out the door. And he never missed the school bus once. Other areas that you might want to allow your child to help with the routine is whether they need a break before or during homework, how they want their evening routine to go, or the order in which they want to do their morning routine.
When establishing good routines, it’s also important to help your child understand that being flexibility is part of life too. Last minute change is a normal part of life and being able to adapt to these changes will make life easier. The Pandemic continues to be a good example of how being flexible to change helps with transitions.
Most children do well when they have visual reminders for things. Some children need a visual schedule for their morning or evening routines, chores around the house or what time they are supposed to go to wake up or go to sleep. I also liked using a timer to see if we could “beat the clock” when we did certain activities and made a game out of certain tasks.
Allow extra time
If your child is the opposite of my child and needs more than 7 minutes to get ready in the morning, it might be a good idea to allow for extra time. Younger children especially might need extra time between transitions. When my children were younger, I always aimed for leaving 30 minutes before the time I wanted to be some place. This usually gave me enough cushion in case the kids were being difficult or pokey in getting ready. Giving us this extra time also allowed me to stay calm even when they weren’t cooperating which meant a lot less yelling and tears.
Give Plenty of Warning
When you know there is going to be a change in the schedule, an extra stop at the grocery store or a babysitter is coming over, give as much warning as you can. This will help HSPs prepare mentally and help them with the transition. There are a few exceptions to this, especially if your loved one is prone to worry, it might be best to give them adequate warning. Remind them they can handle it and try to be compassionate with their frustrations over having to change plans.
Even if you don’t think they should be struggling with a particular transition, it’s important to hear them and affirm their experiences. Saying things like, “I know this is hard but we’re going to figure this out.” Or, “I haven’t really experienced that myself, but I understand why this change might frustrate you.”
I hope this explanation of transitions helps you understand your HSP self or loved one better. If you need more help understanding the HSP trait, please feel free to contact me at 317.496.0456 or email email@example.com. I’d be happy to hear what is happening and help you find the right fit for counseling. If you are looking for help with depression, anxiety, trauma or behavioral concerns, you can read more about how I can help at my website peacefamilycounseling.