My 10 year old son with his shaggy Beatles hairdo no longer ‘needed’ a haircut and could do it himself. His Aspergers was flaring. It dawned on me… he hadn’t been in public really for two months. He was dreading it.

I bribed him to the hairdresser but he was going hard on the hard sanitiser. I had underestimated the transition support I should provide. 

It made me think about returning to school and how we can plan it. I looked at what we had already, what already works. 

Two tools

For us, the following two tools are great for checking in on our kids emotions:

  1. Tanks: We introduced tank language into our house two years ago when we became aware of Aspergers. It’s a powerful tool to visualise and express emotions. We have a large whiteboard with pictures of tanks drawn up with the relevant emotions and the fullness marked when we need to check in. Love tank, happy tank, anxious tank, scared tank etc. When a tank is not full we can draw the level in and talk about what we can do to top it up. As we lead up to School Day 1 and the days that follow, we will actively be checking in on the tank levels as a way to check how we are all going.
  2. Rose, thorn, bud: this has been a favoured dinner check-in for some time. Each takes a turn to say their rose (what’s the best part of your day), thorn (worst part), and bud (what are you looking forward to tomorrow). There is usually bickering over order, who stole whose bud etc, but gives a good dosage of gratitude and blessings, and provides us a litmus test of where the kids are at. 

In addition to these I’ve got six tips to get you winning at transition (and stay sane):

  1. Details count! Orchestrated run sheet for School Day 1. Leave nothing to chance. No surprises. No grey areas. Be ready and have the day visualised and planned. Talk that through with everyone and explain any whys if needed. Make sure you cover the low reinfection risk, but steps needed to keep safe.
  2. Sleep! Have a calm night the night before School Day 1. Stick to routine, have the night schedule run to plan. Pull on all the tricks for a good sleep, whatever these are in your house. Repeat these the first week or longer if needed. 
  3. Wake up organised! Getting up will be gruesome. Plan mornings and keep them simple and no-brainerish. And stress free. Routine is your friend. You know this one. 
  4. Say a big fat NO! to the many extracurricular requests that will come. Remember that peace and time saved in lockdown? Don’t squander it all!!! The aim is to ease back in. Our bandwidths are lower and slower. Stay with that, it’s good.
  5. Be present! Stay engaged with your kids. Be sure to enjoy your freedom as they go to school (haha and insert many memes here), but also realise they will miss you, having become used to your 24/7 presence. Don’t whittle that gain away.
  6. Set a family reward! Agree on something you can all do together at the first weekend, to mark the transition. And to mark the win. Maybe talk about how the family can set a new focus for the next week and keep winning with your new normal.

Good luck and see you out the other side!!