Transitioning to a New School
It is not just a new school year for many of my students; it's also the start of an entirely new school. Some are making the shift from middle to high school, others are moving from private to public school, and one student is even embarking on a world schooling adventure!
Starting a new school year is always a big change. There are different teachers and new routines. It can feel overwhelming for students and parents alike. If your child is off to a new school, I'm here to help! I can trouble-shoot homework schedules, teach students how to use a planner or Google Calendar, or support them in speaking with their new teachers.
Here are some things parents can do to support their child with making these kind of transitions. And as you'll see, many of these tips will work for students starting a new year at a familiar school as well.
1. Create a safe space at home for decompression, sharing feelings, or just being quiet for a while.
Most students, especially sensitive ones, need transition time from school to home, especially at the beginning of the school year. Plan for a half hour of down time at home before homework or dinner to give your child time to relax and process the day. If they go right from sports or music lessons to dinner, give them down time after dinner. Students could nap, color, draw, have a snack, spend time outside, listen to a guided meditation, or stare at the ceiling. Give them a blank journal they can use to write down or draw their feelings, and let them know they don't have to share them if they don't want to...the journal is their safe space to vent. Also encourage them to check in with you about the day to help gauge how the transition is going.
2. Make time at least three days a week to have a conversation about how school is going.
Some students love to talk and others are more reserved with their feelings, but it is always a good idea to check in. Even if they are not completely forthcoming, they will appreciate knowing that you're curious about how their transition is going. Again, give them the option to use a journal to write or draw pictures about how they are feeling. You can taper off after the first month, but continue these check-ins during the year.
3. Reach out to teachers and counselors.
Introduce yourself in person or by email within the first couple of weeks. If your child has an IEP or 504 plan, make sure the wheels are in motion for the initial meeting to solidify accommodations for the year. Share the best connections at the school with me as well so I can stay in the loop about any updates or changes to their classes or accommodations.
4. For older students, get them using a planner or online calendar right away.
Sometimes we assume students know how to use a planner, but many do not. Once they get their planner from school, sit down with them and brainstorm the different ways they could use the planner (not only for daily assignments, but also to budget homework time and for important dates like when assignments are due). Or, set them up with an online calendar like Google Calendar and show them how they can color code it and use it to budget time and remember important dates.
5. How is homework assigned?
For younger students, make sure you understand the homework schedule, if there is one; for older students, determine whether teachers will post assignments online on their personal web site or the school portal. That way you will know the system and can help your student use it. Share this information with me as well so I know where to look for their homework assignments.
6. Visit the school.
Take advantage of opportunities to visit. If the school doesn't offer a tour or a welcome day, drive to the school before the first day, even if it is just to get a look at the campus and the grounds from the outside. Especially for sensitive or anxious students, knowing what the school looks like can help ease stress.
7. Stock up on supplies.
Make sure your child has what they need to start the first week off right. Set them up for success with a good way to organize the paperwork from their classes, whether it is a folder or binder for each class. Include lots of paper, several writing utensils, a highlighter, post-it notes, and make sure their laptop is charged before the first day if they use one in school.
8. Establish routines early.
During the first couple of weeks of school, schedules are often in flux as you figure out sports, tutoring, after school activities, and your own personal schedule. As soon as you can, create a consistent schedule so students know what to expect from day to day. Post the schedule in a visual form in the kitchen or somewhere else prominent so students can check it to see when they have various activities, and also when their designated homework time happens.