The summer is winding down, and many kids are already back in the classroom or will be in a matter of weeks. While every school year has its challenges, starting kindergarten, heading off to college, or moving to a new school bring unique worries for both students and parents.
I asked my followers on Facebook to share their insights and tips on making those transitions easier for families. I was amazed by their responses, and am pleased to share some of them here with you. If you have more suggestions on making school transitions easier, please share them in the comments.
Many parents agreed checking out the school before classes began was crucial for easing new-student anxiety. Many schools offer official orientation days where teachers and sometimes older students walk the incoming students around the building and answer questions. Other schools will offer individual tours of the school if arranged in advance.
“Visiting the place before hand is huge, so the space isn’t new to them,” shared Jennifer Weedon Palazzo of momcavetv.com. She also suggested reviewing the schedule with your child, and even “walking” them through it, if possible.
Parent of two, Jessica Wander Brown, noted connections can be made even before orientation.
“Do research with the class list using social media and find out “who you know” or where you might have a connection (college, a synagogue, workplace etc.). At orientation look out for these people and try to sit near them and connect. ” She also suggested using the class parent to help connect your child to other students. “Just one or two friendly faces on day one makes a big difference.”
Parents and educators can only do so much, and kids will have to take some initiative in connecting with fellow students. Angela, a mom of a first-year college student, shared that kids should be open to trying new things.
“Try it. Try a new game at recess. Try a new sport that maybe you don’t think you’re that good at. Try out a new group of friends. Try living with a roommate. Try taking a class that will broaden your horizons or POV. Just try it. You don’t have to do it forever, or maybe you’ll want to. But you won’t know until you try it.”
Moving up from elementary to middle school is one thing, but what about kids who have never experienced “traditional” school? If you are a homeschooling family whose child(ren) are transitioning into a more typical classroom setting, Tamara, whose son switched out of homeschooling when he was in sixth grade, offers this guidance.
“Explaining to [my son] the concept of the “institutional” version of education that has to move children through the day safely in ways he’d never experienced before helped him accept some of the more challenging aspects for him— like not having the freedom to eat or move his body when he wanted.”
Tamara added that her child’s home schooling experience gave him the confidence to handle new situations, and was fortunate to transition to a school that was well aware of his educational background and could help him as needed.
As noted above, skilled teachers and other guides make transitioning schools more tolerable for all students. However, some children come in needing extra support, and often schools are ill-equipped to meet those needs, even under the best of circumstances.
Understanding the need to advocate for your child, and the limited resources schools have to work with, Valli Vida Gideons of My Battle Call has gone the extra mile to help parents and guardians of kids who are deaf or hard of hearing.
She created a guide for teachers and school staff that helps them better support kids with hearing loss and can be used alongside an IEP or 504Plan.
“It’s been a game-changer for my kids—every new school or change in school/teachers/staff,” said Valli.
Whether your child is heading into a school building for their first time in their lives, starting over in a new town, or entering high school, they will encounter new people and experiences that can be overwhelming. Hopefully with the guidance above they can start school off feeling a bit more at ease.