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Parents limp towards the end of January. The wheels have started to fall off as the emotional

exhaustion of relaxed routines and freedoms take their toll. But here’s how to make the final

weeks enjoyable.

Parents often limp towards the end of January. The wheels have started to fall off as the

emotional exhaustion of relaxed routines and freedoms take their toll. But there are strategies

to make the final weeks enjoyable.

It’s really important to tap into what you and your child are feeling as the holidays come to

end, and to be able to stay connected to avoid becoming completely overwhelmed.

Holidays are great, but they’re can also be a time of complete dysregulation and the overload

of different sensory experiences can impact both parents and children, particularly those still

building their self-regulation skills.

The transition from holidays to school routines can induce stress and pose challenges,

especially for children who benefit from structure and routine.

We need to remember that all behaviour is a form of communication, including meltdowns,

tantrums and mood swings.

Gently re-introduce a few routines so children have some anchors.

Maintain some certainty by letting the child know what the final weeks look like.

Re-establishing routines before the holidays conclude helps set expectations for what lies

ahead. It allows children to mentally prepare for the shift and it can reduce the shock of an

abrupt return to the more structured school routine.

Winding up the holidays and preparing for the school year can be confronting and

overwhelming for any child and especially for those already dealing with anxiety, sensory

and behavioural needs challenges.

If your child has additional sensory needs, they might get overwhelmed by the transition.

There are a few simple strategies parents can call upon in the final weeks before children

return to school.

· Role play potential events. By rehearsing together a scenario before it arises, the child can

experience the emotions and scaffolds in their brain, how they will respond when confronted

with a situation that might otherwise agitate or upset them, or feel completely unfamiliar.

· Build in down time to avoid break down. Plan for breaks during the final weeks of the

holidays when children may be more exhausted from the lack of routine. Schedule downtime

during the day to bring your child back to baseline. Some cues are such as being overly silly,

crankiness, not listening and withdrawing. Children (and adults) need recovery time after the

long break.

· Create a predictable environment. Children thrive in predictable environments. Create a

sense of predictability by outlining the plans for the remaining holiday period and gradually

reintroduce familiar routines. This predictability gives boundaries and provides a sense of

security for children.

· Provide emotional support. Acknowledging the end of holidays can be challenging for both

parents and children so offering emotional support is essential. By discussing the holidays

coming to an end and the return to school, parents can manage their child’s expectations and

address any concerns or anxieties that may arise.

Kate Keisler is a paediatric occupational therapist and founder of Calm and Connected.