Gliding Into Fall: Sensory challenges in the new season
By Barb Drotos
Already? Getting ready for the school year? It's still summer! But with adoption, getting ready is the name of the game in so many ways. Adoptive parents become experts in "getting ready" for so many things, from the beginning of the adoption journey and then at many stages throughout the life of their child. School is just around the corner and whether you have children who are infants, toddlers, school age, or teens, there is a rhythm to the seasons and children sense this. They know this intuitively, and "summer into fall" is a time of transition.
What do children sense?
- The changes in weather
- The smell of different flowers blooming and leaves starting to change
- The ocean or lake waters are warmer
- The night air is starting to get cooler
- The smell of barbeque grills in the neighborhood at dinner time
- No mosquitoes or black flies to swat and consequently, gone is the routine smell of bug spray
- The shorter length of daylight hours
- The hurry of school shopping, buying fall clothing, and stores being more crowded
- The flutter of trying to "fit everything in" before the summer ends
- Daily routines and bedtime rituals beginning again, to prepare for the school schedule
The list goes on and on... but rest assured that no matter what their age, your child senses the rhythm of the season about to change!
In adoption, change is especially worth paying attention to. Some children have experienced significant change, transition, and loss. It is important to pay attention to transitions and the loss or uncertainty that it can trigger for children. Children need reassurance that although there is change, there is a predictable, reassuring rhythm to change itself. What a complex lesson to learn! So, how do we help our children prepare for change, something as simple and predictable as a change in season? Some of the following suggestions might be helpful:
- Read with your child. There are a number of books about change, loss, or the seasons. There are books for every age group.
- Draw with your child. Draw picture of the seasons and use the opportunity to talk about the changes coming up.
- Take photos of the environment and notice the seasonal changes. Review photos from seasons past to note differences.
- Point out the senses and what is changing. Smell the flowers or leaves together and notice the differences. Touch the ocean water and talk about how is August so it is warmest but soon will be getting colder again.
- Use a calendar and mark the days each morning or every night. Help them to understand, both visually and experientially, how time passes and with that, some things change and some things remain the same.
- Make a visual calendar of the current month and the upcoming month ahead, with photos, drawings, or symbols of the day's events.
- Read about creating a Life Book and begin one with your child. Start with documenting the present time and the upcoming months.
Your child needs to know beyond a shadow of a doubt that the new season is coming and although that brings change, there is predictability and comfort in their relationship with you. You can cherish the moments of the summer sun and playtime while also preparing for the new schedules of the fall. This is a perfect way to let your children know that change is coming and there are things to look forward to.
Summer is an amazing time for families. It is a time for building memories and can be filled with moments that help us to establish healthy, strong bonds with our children. For adoptive families, this is especially important. Take advantage of the warmer weather and be outside together, splash in the water and run your toes through the grass. Make sandcastles and picnic at the park. But also remember to honor the foundation of adoption in your family. Your child needs to know that you are paying attention.to their adjustment, to their transitions, to them as they glide into the fall season with all of the love and guidance that you have to offer them.