Helping Your Child Cope with School Transitions
By Leah Davies, M.Ed.
Children report moving,
leaving friends, and changing grades or schools as being highly stressful.
To assist them with transitions the following ideas may be helpful:
- If the family is
moving, take pictures of friends and familiar places
and offer ways to keep in contact with
close friends via phone, email, and letters. Help
your child talk about what he or she will
miss and about what will be new and different.
your child to discuss the future transition by asking
questions such as, "What have you been thinking
about your new school?" Make a list of your child's
concerns and together try to find answers
to the questions. Many schools have internet sites
that describe procedures, show virtual tours, and answer
- If you have
a choice of schools, listen to your child's ideas about
what is important to him or her.
After visiting various schools, openly discuss the strengths
and weaknesses of each.
Although the final
decision is yours, it is important that your child
feel included in the decision making process.
your child get to know the new environment beforehand.
When possible visit the school together.
Even viewing it from a car or seeing a photograph
of the building is better than
leaving the first day
to the child's imagination.
- Let your child
know it is natural to feel apprehensive. He or she
may be fearful of
not being accepted
by peers or about mastering the logistics or
academics of a new grade
Share childhood memories
of times when you were worried about a new
situation. Relate the good things that happened like
how you met your best friend or that your new
teacher was one of your favorites.
- Keep the
days leading up to the transition as positive as
possible. Stress that his or
her class will offer many new experiences.
The night before the first
day, have your child lay out everything needed
for school. The next morning allow time to
get ready in a calm manner.
- Buy school supplies
and required materials. Go over the walk to school
or to the bus stop. Empower your child by discussing
he or she can take if a problem arises.
Ask, "What concerns you most about school?" Listen
and then ask, "If that happens, what will
you do?" Help
your child think of constructive ways to
deal with a difficult situation.
the transition to be ultimately successful. Yet,
remember that adjustments
take time and the first days in a new
school are often overwhelming. Your attitude can
your child; let him or her know you are
confident in his ability to adjust
- Attend the school's
orientation, open house, and/or tour the school with
your child. Be involved by asking for a
copy of the school's calendar and handbook. Join the
Parent-Teacher Organization or parent advisory board.
Get to know other parents, especially
of your child's new friends.
- Be available
after school starts. Understand that your child may
need extra time, attention and support. When there
is a change, he or she may regress to
developmental stage. Plan time for
family fun because when transitions
occur, families are a necessary source
of love and support.
- Invite your
child to express his or her emotions. Even when a concern
seems minor to you, be respectful and know that
it can be a major crisis to your
child. Try to put yourself
in his or her place
and understand the feelings expressed.
Ask open ended questions like, "How's it going?" or
make comments like, "You seem sad." Then
listen carefully and avoid giving
advice unless your child asks
- Help your child
explore ways to cope with concerns, and continue
to be available for further discussion. Be ready
problem-solve with him or her.
may want to role play a situation
that is causing
- Encourage your
child to try new things by participating in
one or two extracurricular activities.
Help him or her understand
that trying is
what is important, and that
one does not
always have to be successful.
to foster your child's organizational skills and
assist him or her in becoming responsible
and independent. Stay
and provide rules and structure.
Yet, allow your child to
have input into what the rules are.
- If after an adjustment period of time, your child
is reluctant to go to school or seems truly unhappy, seek help.
Identify your concerns and meet with your child's teacher and/or school counselor. Together, perhaps
with the child being present, work out a plan of action.