Occupational Therapy Helping Children’s founder and director, Lisa Hughes, shares her top tips to help your child finish the school year on a high.

It’s Term Four, we’ve made it! We can see the Christmas decorations in the store and are planning our January holidays. Having worked in schools for many years and with my daughter recently finishing school, I’ve experienced a lot of Term 4s, so I have some insight into the happenings in the classroom. Here are some strategies to make the path smoother for your children.

OT sessions

Term Four begins with everyone feeling relaxed, we’ve hopefully had some lovely sunny weather over the break and the mood is positive. At school, students hit the ground running, as teachers need to get up to date results to write your child’s school reports. Testing begins pretty well straight away, and depending on how long your school’s term is, it could all be over in two weeks. Maybe I’m cynical, but from then on I’d be more relaxed about taking your child for appointments during school hours. Term Four is a great time to knock over some intensive Occupational Therapy sessions as the learning time decreases at school you can maximise the gains that your child can make in therapy. In Term Four, we turn our focus towards the next school year and what skills your child is going to need to ensure that they have a positive start. It’s so much more relaxing bringing a child to OT during the school day as opposed to having to drag all the family to after school appointments.

Routine

This would be one of my key survival strategies for Term Four to help keep your child regulated and able to cope with whatever curve balls are thrown at them. Make a schedule for the fridge so that your child knows what days they have different activities on before and after school. For example, when they go to After School care or which day tennis is on. Keep their morning and night time routine consistent, and especially make sure that bedtime occurs at the same time each night. Sleep and a healthy diet are essentials for children to maintain their emotional regulation. We all know that feeling of dragging ourselves through a day when we haven’t slept well. Let your child know well ahead about any changes to their routine. Children cope a lot better when they are well prepared for events. If they have orientation days for new schools etc., mark it on the calendar and talk them through what is going to happen on the day. Being well prepared helps decrease anxiety.

Social events and avoiding sensory overload

As we head toward the final weeks of Term Four, all the Christmas concerts and end of year parties click in, not to mention Christmas celebrations with family and friends. Life becomes hectic as we try to juggle multiple events in limited time frames. Our routines go askew and children become tired and their behaviour becomes challenging. Carefully choose which events you need to go to. If you must go, be prepared to pull out early if you see your child becoming overloaded and beginning not to cope. Dysregulated children can take a good day to calm down from ‘sensory overloaded’ events.

Effective down time

Let your child have plenty of ‘down time’, but not on devices or watching TV as this is also stimulating. They may prefer to make a cubby in their bedroom, in a darkened environment and just read or play quietly with no siblings disturbing them. I think a ‘mental health’ day from school is also acceptable at this time if you can manage it. Some children really benefit from this if the schedule has been particularly overloaded.

Why not also try some meditation or yoga with your child to help them relax?

Apps: Some apps we particularly like for this are Wellbeyond Meditation for Kids and DreamyKid.

Yoga: On Pinterest these are some great ideas for kids yoga. I particularly like the ones that use animal poses. Get involved in doing these postures with your children as everyone can benefit.

Calming your child down with proprioception

Heavy work (proprioception) will also help your child to regulate himself before and after events/ busy days. Proprioceptive input provides a sense of body awareness, body organisation and postural security which helps a child relax, calm down and regulate their emotions.

Some proprioceptive activities you might like to try at home are:

  • Bouncing on a trampoline
  • Push ups
  • Animal walks
  • Commando crawls
  • Chair/wall push ups
  • Wrestling games
  • Step ups
  • Climbing at the park/trees
  • Rolling your child up tightly in a blanket and applying firm pressure
  • Squashing them between some large pillow/cushions.

There is lots of challenges in Term Four that you need to help your child navigate. If you are finding that you need more assistance to help your child manage their self-regulation, give us a call at Occupational Therapy Helping Children on 9913 3823 or email us at hello@occupationaltherapy.com.au. We can work with you to develop strategies to help your child to survive Term Four!