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Tips for Transitioning to a New School

Meryl Ain

As this school year winds down, it’s time to plan for the next school year. Whether your child is moving up from nursery school to kindergarten, or changing schools for any number of reasons, there are steps you can take now to ease the transition for your child.

Whatever the age of your child, it’s a good idea to arrange a visit to the new school. A visit will demystify the new school environment by enabling your child to see the physical building, including classrooms, playground, and cafeteria. Meeting school personnel will also familiarize your child with the new cast of characters in his or her life.

There are also many excellent children’s books that deal with school, such as Curious George Goes to School by Margret Rey, and The Berenstain Bears Go to School by Jan and Stan Berenstain. My all-time favorite book for children and adults of all ages is Oh, the Places You’ll Go by Dr. Seuss. It inspires kids of all ages to be bold and courageous in new situations.

Here are some tips to help you and your child become comfortable in the new school.

  1. It's normal for both you and your child to be anxious about entering a new school, but if you have concerns, please don't express them to your child. Express confidence and optimism about his/her ability to meet the new challenges.
  2. Look for opportunities for your child to meet his/her classmates over the summer. Check with the school principal, PTA, religious and social organizations and other groups to find connections.
  3. If your child has special needs, such as a learning disability or food allergy, work with the new school as far in advance as possible to determine placement and to line up services and support.
  4. Keep the spark of learning alive during the summer. Students can lose from one to three months of learning during the summer, so plan to keep your child engaged by encouraging reading, word games, math and nature activities. Simply cooking and baking with kids can help develop math, reading, and science skills.
  5. Call the PTA or PTO president and introduce yourself. Parent organization leaders are in a good position to share information and issues about the new school with you. Ask how you can contribute your skills and interests. Getting actively involved in your child’s new school benefits you and your child! Research indicates that the more involved parents are, the more successful their own children will be.
  6. Know the names, phone numbers, and e-mail addresses of your children's teachers, principal, and school nurse. By all means, contact them if you have questions or concerns.
  7. Become familiar with your school and school district websites, and check them for calendar changes, meeting announcements and minutes, news, policies and procedures, and other information.
  8. Check your mail for the publication of the annual calendar/directory. Keep it in an accessible place.
  9. Find out how your school communicates important information to parents and then be alert to those messages. Is it by automated phone message, e-mail blasts, electronically through systems such as Parent Portal, newsletters, snail-mail, or in your kids' backpacks?

Staying on top of information and issues will enable you to be a proactive and informed parent. Your ongoing engagement, support, and encouragement will expedite your child’s transition into the new school.

Dr. Meryl Ain has worked in several large New York school districts as an administrator and teacher, and blogs about education and parenting on Huffington Post, ParentNet Unplugged, and on her own blog, Your Education Doctor. Follow her on Twitter or find her on Facebook.

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