Every year over the course of the last few weeks of the summer, I start to get anxious to get back into a "normal" routine again with structure where everyone follows a day to day schedule. It is always coming off of a GREAT summer (this summer was a fantastic one) but I start to find that everyone breaks down a little bit and I always attribute it to the lack of real schedule we follow over the summer. I happily anticipate the new routine and then find myself emotional (like today) when that routine gets going again and everyone has a lot of difficulty getting the hang of it again. I stumbled across this graphic I had saved from last year and I found it fitting to apply to my post today.
The summer was so fantastic for many reasons, but also mostly because we got to take a real break for awhile from the exhaustion of the past school year and all of the legal stuff we were going through. While things are definitely starting off on a positive foot, a lot of the anxieties have crept back a bit as we transition back to this routine again. On day three for Colin returning back to school, we are finding that while he seems to be really enjoying school, he has also become extremely emotional at times he isn't typically affected.
Colin's heightened emotions are attributed to several things. First, this new schedule takes some getting used to again and Colin is left feeling pretty exhausted at the end of each day. Secondly, he has spent his entire summer with one of both of us and now he is transitioning to an entire day spent separated from us. Since we started the process of talking about, introducing him to, and starting school again last week, he has cried at his last two karate classes and then today, cried when his occupational therapist came to get him from the waiting area at therapy today (he is always so happy to go with her so that came as a surprise).
We know Colin is tired and exhausted when we see some behaviors start to appear. He is a child who seeks sensory stimulation on a regular basis (likes to rub his hands and fingers along strings, the edge of clothing or paper, rub eyelashes, etc.) and when he is more tired than usual, these sensory seeking behaviors occur more often and for greater lengths of time. In talking with his private occupational therapist today, she was explaining that while he is still sensory seeking, he then uses those behaviors because he finds them to be calming. He came home today with some pretty shredded socks because he must have been playing with the strings along the edges of the socks to make himself feel better.
We also start to see a little blip on his overall behavior because of this exhaustion (digging his heels in a little more during transitions at home, behavior with his sister, etc.) but he also becomes more aware of the effects of his behavior. For example, Kailey was upset because he wasn't sharing toys with her tonight. Since SHE was ALSO tired, she went on about how sad she was and started crying. Watching her cry and explaining how sad she felt caused him to start crying. After forcing him to apologize and her give forgiveness, I left the room and observed from afar as he watched her and then asked her if she stopped crying. When she answered yes and said she was now happy, he turned to her and said "Kailey, I'm really sorry" and she answered with "that's ok Colin, I forgive you" and they hugged it out all on their own.
Overall, from Colin's perspective, it seems as though he is enjoying school and is happy with his new teachers. He happily gets on the bus in the morning and waves goodbye and is happy when the bus pulls up at the end of the day. He talks about them with a big smile on his face and gives me tiny tidbits from his day. I know this is a new transition and something he needs to get used to but I always find myself having a hard time (and feeling more emotional myself) because I just want to speed up time and get us all through this hardest part (wouldn't that be nice!).
In the meantime, we are trying to help him in any way we can. I have made a visual schedule for the big picture of his day which we go over before he leaves for school in the morning, I made a social story about him going back to Kindergarten, and we talk about school and his new teachers as much as possible. I also made a sheet with a list of the things we did over the weekend with attached pictures so that he has some assistance in communicating with this teachers and friends at school.
I know that change is never easy and I can talk myself through the fact we will all come out on the other side. I look forward to see all of the things that Colin is going to do and accomplish this year in Kindergarten, but I also think it's going to require him to learn a new way of doing things and in some ways, forget a little bit about how he did them last year. I know it's just going to take us all some time to get used to the transition.
I can understand why Colin was particularly emotional today as we had a pretty great ending to our summer this past weekend!