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Back to school!

Updated: Mar 6, 2020

Hello and Happy New Year!

As we “grown ups” launch ourselves back into the working year and brace ourselves for all that 2020 has to offer, reflecting on how going back to school can feel for some children is useful.

For those lucky enough to have had a safe and nurturing break, back to school could mean the dreaded early morning wake ups, running for the bus and the start of homework again.

For children who have a more chaotic home life, going back to school can be more daunting. Returning to a structured, regulated environment can be very difficult when the previous couple of weeks have been disordered, unpredictable and triggering for a child with anything other than a Secure attachment.

So how can we make the transition back to school, gentler for the child in the classroom and the teacher at the front of it?

3 tips to a calmer classroom in 2020

Holiday diaries and “How was your holiday?”

For some children, their holidays wont have been the Christmas movie Disney has us all believing is possible, so often directly asking how their holiday was, can bring up intense feelings of shame, anger and remind them of rejection and disappointment. Instead, try greeting children with statements about the here and now in their class,” Hello Sam, it’s great to have you back in class.” or “Hello Ishani, I’m looking forward to working with you again this term.” for example. These statements offer children a clean slate to work from and make them feel welcomed back into their community.

If they are asked to write a diary or describe what they did over the holidays, perhaps try broad questions such as “What would you like to tell me about your holiday?” rather than “What was your favourite/best moment?” etc. This phrasing offers children the chance to share what they are comfortable remembering. For some you will still hear about the presents/adventures and trips; for others, this could be the opening of a much deeper conversation.

Start with Grounding

For a dysregulated child coming back into the classroom environment is a huge challenge. To help dissipate any manic energy that they may bring in from home, the playground or the journey to school, perhaps start the morning/after break/after lunch with a grounding exercise the whole class can do together.

Simple stretching and yoga for kids can remind them of where their feet are on the ground, how to draw in deep, nourishing breaths and how to be aware of their limbs and the sensations associated with movement. A dysregulated child can often find they are dissociated from their physical bodies a lot of the time, so reminding them of how it feels to be grounded and in touch with their physical bodies can really calm them. (Regulating the Sympathetic Nervous system responsible for “Flight or Fight” responses and engaging the Parasympathetic Nervous System in charge of slowing the heart rate.) This makes them more ready to participate in a structured lesson and less likely to still be full of anxious energy that is often connected to fidgeting, disruptive behaviours and hyper-vigilance.

New term, new desk

Often a new term brings a new seating arrangement which can be a source of anxiety for dysregulated children. If there is a child in your class that displays anxiety, hyper-vigilance, policing other children, “telling tales” or who is unable to focus on their work in the group environment; consider putting them at the back of the classroom, in a corner seat. While this may feel counter intuitive, moving them away from the teacher, it actually helps the child feel safe and self-regulate faster. In the corner at the back of the classroom, the child can see all the other classmates, their exits, and will not have anyone unexpectedly moving behind them. This position could make them feel safer and therefore more able to focus on the tasks at hand.

As that back to school feeling creeps up on us all, I would like to wish you the very best for 2020.

For more hints, tips and play-based strategies, or to discuss a particular child that has been on your mind, please get in touch at

I am looking forward to hearing from you and hope we can work together to make our communities stronger, healthy and happier.

Take care,


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