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[Parent Tips] Successful Grade Transitions from Kindergarten Through High School

Friday, August 5, 2016 -- Megan Sternke

New classroom environments, unfamiliar teachers, and different expectations make transitioning to a new grade a challenging experience for many children. This transition can be especially stressful when it includes changing buildings as well. If your child will be moving to a new building this school year, he or she will go from being a seasoned student in a school he or she has become very familiar with to being the youngest in an intimidating new environment. Despite the natural anxiety that comes with this, your child could also be very excited for the change of scenery, the new teachers, and the opportunity to make new friends! Here are some tips to prepare your child for any building transition and help him or her feel more comfortable with and excited for the change.

Early Education to Elementary School

When your child is moving up from kindergarten to first grade, start by talking to him or her about what to expect. Remind your child that he or she will have more responsibility, attend school all day, and spend more time on skills such as reading and writing. Be sure to keep your tone positive; your child will pick up on your attitude very quickly, and it could influence him or her. As school approaches, try to assess your child’s emotions. Is he or she nervous? Excited? Scared? If your child is experiencing a lot of negative emotions, it may be a good idea to reach out to the future teacher and make him or her aware of your concerns.

In the weeks leading up to the first day of school, it’s important to get your child back on a regular schedule. Ease him or her back into a consistent wake-up time and bedtime, and make sure that meals are around the time they will be once school is back in session; tiredness and hunger are definitely distractions when it comes to learning. If possible, visit your child’s classroom before the first day and meet the teacher. This will allow your child to become familiar with the new surroundings and give him or her a chance to ask questions. Once the first day arrives, assure your child that you will see each other soon and reinforce how great this new experience will be. And, whether your child is anxious or excited about the beginning of school, encourage him or her to remember the importance of education and remain committed to working hard all year long, even during times of frustration or boredom.

Elementary to Middle School

The transition from elementary school to middle school is typically the most significant in terms of the structure of your child’s day. Students must adjust to changing classes between periods, having multiple teachers, remembering locker combos, and managing larger homework loads. In addition, as children begin to mature, friendships and family relationships often change and can become strained. As a parent, it’s important to make communication with your child a priority. Even if you are being pushed away, talking about the changes and challenges your child is experiencing is one of the best ways you can help him or her manage the stress or anxiety he or she may be experiencing.  

Despite the challenges of this transition, one great thing about entering middle school is that it is the perfect time to try new things. Encourage your child to take positive risks such as joining a club, trying a new sport, or making new friends. Middle school is also the time where your child will begin to find his or her unique identity and voice. Being able to speak up for oneself is a lifelong skill that can be refined when parents step back and allow their child to step up. As your child gets ready for middle school, allow him or her to take the lead, but be prepared to provide backup and urge him or her forward with words of encouragement.

Middle to High School

By the time your child gets to high school, he or she will have probably gone through a couple of building transitions before. However, with the added pressure of AP® classes, varsity sports, and other extracurricular groups, the transition to high school can be just as nerve-wracking as previous ones. Many educators advocate the use of mentorship programs. By matching incoming students with current ones, mentoring provides new students with an opportunity to ask any questions that have been on their minds, easing their worries and making room for excitement.

One tip to make the transition smoother is to avoid giving your child excessive warnings about what to expect, as this can undermine confidence. Your teenager is more than likely already stressed about getting good grades—telling your child that he or she is going to have to work harder or differently to be successful at the high school level won’t make him or her any more comfortable with the transition. Instead, offer words of encouragement like, “I know you will be able to handle this.” In addition, advocate for your child to get involved in student groups dedicated to topics or activities that he or she is passionate about. Students who are involved in extracurricular activities tend to excel socially and academically compared to their less-involved peers. With the right mix of parent, school, and student involvement, the transition to high school can be a smooth experience that sets up your child for continued success.

Looking for more ideas to make back-to-school time go smoothly for you and your child this year? Check out these 7 Back-To-School Tips for Parents!

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