Planning for the School Transition

Every parent knows that starting school is not just about buying uniforms and pens. The transition is often more to do with yours and your child’s feelings. I know it may seem early to think about this, however, it’s always good to have a plan. Here are some of my ideas for the transition to School and moves to Junior School.

Planning for the Start of School

Although most schools have excellent plans for managing the transition, these range from meeting you both at home to a graded transition, however entering a new place with unfamiliar routines and people can create anxiety for you and for your child.

How to manage the school transition

What you may be Feeling

Parents shared many feelings over the years, here are just a few when their child was starting school or nursery.

  • Sadness about your child growing up and moving onto the next stage of their lives.
  • Anxiety about whether a new school or teacher is best for your child
  • Concerns about how your child may manager their anxieties
  • Uncertainty regarding your role as a parent as your child will be entering a world without you.
  • Sadness about leaving the staff at the nursery
  • Thinking about a new stage in life for yourself and their child

Your feelings about the transition will influence how they handle the change and also how your child feels about it. For example, sometimes, parents can be reminded of the bad times you had at school, such as finding the work hard or even being bullied.  This can make it harder for you to be positive about your child starting school.  If your fears are shared with your child, the child will feel more nervous. 

Your child may have feelings too

Although many children feel excited about starting school, they can, in addition, feel anxious and sad too. At nursery, they developed secure attachments. It is a place which is familiar and safe, don’t be surprised if they:

  • Are clingier than usual, for example crying when you go out of the room, wanting you to go everywhere with them
  • Have disturbed sleep: difficulty settling, nightmares, early waking.
  • Temporary regression, for example, a toilet-trained child may start wetting themselves, or your child may want to be ‘babied’
  • Mild aggression, such as hitting or kicking more often than usual
  • Being quieter than usual
  • Having trouble concentrating
  • Complain of tummy aches or headaches

What can you do to ease the Transition

Many schools have excellent graded transition plans, however, they don’t always highlight the emotionality of it from you or your child. Children who are anxious or have special needs may need extra help with the transition. Here are some general ideas to have in place:

  • Start early; you can never begin preparing for a transition too soon.
  • Anticipate possible trouble spots ( your child may suffer from separation anxiety) and plan what to do if problems occur.
  • Do contact the teacher to share behaviour plans. If you know your child may be anxious, contact the school in order to implement a clear drop off plan. Children need safe adults they can attach too. Identify one now, so you can meet and they can meet now and in September. Set a review meeting for the September term so you know that there is a space to meet and review how it working.
  • This is also important if your child has special needs, try and write a child centered plan for the transition.
  • Nearer the time, ask if your child can bring a comfort object from home.
  • Start to discuss school at home gently throughout the summer. In readiness talk about other transitions that have gone well. It’s good to do this in a picture or video form.
  • Do some test runs throughout the summer
  • Be positive but in addition validate their feelings.
  • Have friends that they may be joining with over to play in the summer.
  • Allow your feelings, it is perfectly normal to have feelings about this. Talk it over with friends or family

Why do some children struggle with Yearly Transitions?

Even if your child manages the first year, many parents think well why do they continue to struggle? There is no simple response to this, however, your child may have:

  • Social Anxiety, and be afraid of the group situation
  • Been bullied may be afraid to go to school because his tormenters are there
  • Separation anxiety might be afraid something terrible will happen to you if they’re apart
  • An insecure attachment style that makes transitions a little bit harder
  • Adhd, social communication or Dyslexia and other learning difficulties. This can make children feel shame and embarrassment which often leads to avoidance and difficulties as the summer holiday ends.

What can you do?

Be gentle, simply name their fears, be curious, use language such as:

I wonder if, or maybe you might be worried about starting school

How can I help you, would it help to…….

I can understand you might be feeling…..and you have to go to school. I want to help you with this.

Try to plan for each new year and sit down and discuss with your child and their new teacher. Some children need to meet their teacher more than once and need a plan to manage the initial transition. This will help to alleviate any fears. You may need to go to the new classroom several times or visit the new school building. Many children change buildings when they move to juniors.

Remember reassurance does not effectively manage anxiety, mastering the feelings, having a plan and coping skills do.

I hope this helps everyone, if you know you need help, then do contact me for a consultation. Good luck every one