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Tips for School Transition

Tips for School Transition


Getting off to a good start for a new school year can influence children’s attitude, confidence, and performance both socially and academically. The transition from August to September can be difficult for both children and parents. Even children who are excited to return to class must adjust to greater levels of activity, structure, and, for some, pressures associated with school life. Below are some tips to consider as you ease into the school year:

  1. Try to assist in the transition by visiting the school with kids before school starts (Wilkes Open House is Tuesday, September 3rd from 10:30 – 11:15am), maintaining routines at home for a sense of a familiar environment, and attending ‘back to school’ nights.  Mark your calendars as Wilkes Back to School Nights are in mid-September.  This is especially important if you have children in more than one school and need to juggle obligations. Arrange for a babysitter now, if necessary

  2. Parents' Positive Expectations Facilitate a Smooth Transition. Share your enthusiasm about their transition to a new grade and your confidence in your child's adaptability.  If your child is anxious about school, send personal notes in the lunch box or book bag.  Reinforce the ability to cope. Children absorb their parent’s anxiety, so model optimism and confidence for your child.  Let your child know that it is natural to be a little nervous anytime you start something new but that your child will be just fine once he or she becomes familiar with classmates, the teacher, and school routine.  The greatest gift you can give your son or daughter is the gift of your confidence in their capabilities and resilience.

  3. Ease Into a School Year Schedule: It takes a few days to ease into the school schedule.  As your student approaches the first day of school, re-establish the bedtime and mealtime routines (especially breakfast). Prepare your child for this change by talking with your child about the benefits of school routines in terms of not becoming over tired or overwhelmed by school work and activities. Include pre-bedtime reading and household chores if these were suspended during the summer.

  4. Keep That Calendar Clear the First Two Weeks: Try to be available the first two weeks after school (or evenings if you work full time) to check in with your student.  To the extent possible, postpone business trips, volunteer meetings, and extra projects. You want to be free to help your child acclimate to the school routine and overcome the confusion or anxiety that many children experience at the start of a new school year.

  5. Keep the Lines of Communication Open. Research tells us that children really do look to parents and caregivers for advice and help on tough decisions. Sometimes spending 15 minutes a day talking can reassure kids that they can talk to their parents if they have a problem. Start conversations about the first weeks of school with questions like these:
    • What was one good thing that happened today? Any bad things?
    • What is lunch time like at your school? Who do you sit with? What do you talk about?
    • What is it like to ride the school bus?
    • Who do you play with at recess?
    • What do you like best about your new teacher?

  6. Stay Active: With the return of school, students spend more time indoors, but don’t forget to keep physical activity a part of the daily schedule. Sixty minutes a day outside playing is a great goal to have for young minds.  Staying active and getting the wiggles out can help relieve stress.

  7. Pick Out Clothes the Night Before: Mornings are always rushed, even for the most prepared families, so whatever you can do in advance, do the evening before. Pick out your kids' clothes — or if they prefer, have them pick out their ensembles — the night before. Set aside not just the outfit, but the shoes, belt, hair clips . . . anything that goes along with it, so that you aren't scrambling to find a matching sock at 7 a.m.

  8. Make Lunches the Night Before: Putting together a sandwich and apple slices might seem like a no-brainer that takes all of five minutes, but those five minutes inevitably last a lot longer when you're surrounded by cranky kids and a slow coffee maker.

  9. Always Leave Seven Minutes Early: It's inevitable that if you plan to leave at 6:45 a.m., you aren't out the door until at least 6:55. Decide what is the very last minute you can leave without being late, and make it your goal to leave seven minutes prior to that. Knowing that you want to be in the car at 6:48 is more specific than a general time on the hour or half-hour, so you're more likely to stick to it.

  10. Clean Out Backpacks Daily (and have your kids help you with this choir): It's amazing what kids bring home with them . . . and then bring to school . . . and then bring back home. A quick pass through, ideally right when they get home, will help them stay clean and organized, not to mention help you know what's going on. Chances are, that memo the teacher needs you to read is crumpled at the bottom of that bag.

  11. Transition is Hard for Parents Too:   If the first few days are a little rough, try not to over react. Young children in particular may experience separation anxiety or shyness initially but teachers are trained to help them adjust.  If you drop them off, try not to linger. Reassure them that you love them, will think of them during the day, and will see them soon.

  12. You’re probably thinking about them way more than they’re thinking about you:  Separation can be hard for some students, but despite any drop-off meltdowns, most students don’t realize how much they have missed you until you are united again.

  13. Finally, as your school counselor, I am here to support you and your students.  Don’t hesitate to contact me if you have a concern or question.

This article was adapted from Back-to-School Transitions: Tips for Parents  By Ted Feinberg, EdD, NCSP, & Katherine C. Cowan and

Sue Constan, Wilkes School Counselor