Tips to Handle a Transition
By Emily Webb . July 11, 2022
Is your child moving to a new school or attending in-person school for the first time in years? Changes can be hard for a child to cope with. Use these suggestions to make the transition easier.
Knowledge Is Power
- Tour the school. For middle schoolers and high schoolers, plan to walk through the halls to find the different classrooms. Take a test drive to the pick-up and drop-off area. And, meet the teacher. Discuss your concerns and ask for feedback. What are their tips for helping a child at a new school
- Talk to fellow parents. If possible, volunteer at your child’s school, join the PTA or help out with a school sport or club. An active role in the school environment will help you get to know your child’s friends and the other parents.
- Read books together about moving to a new school or first days.
- Go over the new changes. Practice opening a locker in middle school, understand the backpack policy, and practice moving during the hall when the bell for classes rings.
Talk About It
- Acknowledge the stress you as the parent and your child are experiencing. Talk about what is bothering your child, what their fears are, and what can be done to help them feel better about their new surroundings and circumstances.
- Tune in to your own feelings. Your worry can increase your own child’s worry. While it is important to keep communication open and honest, make sure you are keeping the conversation about them and not adding to their concerns.
- Validate feelings before jumping to reassure. Acknowledge, accept and empathize with their own feelings. Label difficult feelings and walk through ways to work through them positively. Try practicing these coping mechanisms: taking deep breaths; closing eyes and counting to 10 or backward from 100; imagining a happy place; going for a walk; tensing and relaxing muscles; listening to music; journaling; or coloring or drawing.
- Remind your child of any big change they have faced before this one. Reassure them that they can do this, too, to help them acknowledge their own resilience.
- As kids grow older, their friends and friend groups may change as kids acquire new hobbies and interests. Remind them that this is normal and help them learn to accept and make new friends.
- If after an adjustment period, your child is reluctant to go to school or still seems truly unhappy, seek help. Talk to them about it, and meet with their teachers and administrators, so you can work together to target the sources of your child’s discomfort. School guidance counselors and school psychologists can also help with difficult transitions.
Take Your Time
- Lessen your children’s load when it comes to unnecessary activities, especially during the first few weeks of a new transition. Introduce them to more activities after they’ve started acclimating. Now may be the time to try a new sport or club, and you can encourage your child to try new things by participating in one or two extracurricular activities.
- Set aside time to be alone with your child and keep communication open.
- Prioritize sleep. Reestablish a bedtime, limit screen time, follow a routine, and implement a relaxing activity before bedtime.
- Be patient. Your child may act differently or may have more of an attitude than usual. Remember they’re reacting to a new environment and will need time to adjust. Make sure they know you’re there for them, but don’t force them to open up to you.
- If you’re moving to a new district or home, take pictures of friends and familiar places. Offer ways to keep in contact.
- Arrange a playdate with your child’s classmates, new and old.
- Keep the old routine and back-to-school traditions.