Transitioning from one school to another can be a bumpy ride. Whether your child is moving up from elementary to middle school or switching to a new district, many of your concerns may be similar. We asked readers to share their anxieties as well as their advice on what works.
What Could Happen
Your child may slide into her new school without a hitch, but it's more likely that she'll experience a few bumps along the way. Prepare yourself — and your kids — for challenges like these.
“It hasn't been an easy transition for either of my children — no recesses, all new kids, changing classes, and especially other kids calling them names.”
—Ann R., Lincoln, Illinois
“Our son struggled for his first semester of middle school with insecurity, anxiety, and bullies (he has ADHD).”
—Susan Z., Lake Villa, Illinois
Whether it's practicing locker combinations, touring the unfamiliar building beforehand, or reaching out to helpful staff and peers, parents talk about the strategies that saved them.
“There is no such thing as ‘no homework’ in middle school. I learned to e-mail my son's teachers to clarify any misconceptions about assignments and due dates. In this way, I was still keeping tabs on him without too much uncool embarrassment.”
—Kim S., Pembroke Pines, Florida
“Know your student's school. Start with the teachers: volunteer to help in any way. Volunteer in the school office too — this way you get to know the administrators. Encourage your child to invite friends from school over to get to know them too.”
—Ruthie H., Austin, Texas
“I made arrangements to have a ‘veteran’ 7th grader walk my daughter through the school building. She also gave her some tips on certain classes as they walked along. The first day of school was terrific for my daughter as she was confident and helpful to the others who were lost and scared!”
—Diana B., Erie, Pennsylvania
“I have learned to listen to and trust my children and not worry about the small stuff. Sometimes what makes them happy is the most important thing.”
—Karen S., Fort Wayne, Indiana
“My son visited the middle school during summer school to get better acquainted.”
—Sabrina J., San Lorenzo, California
“My advice is to know your children, really know them. One of the best things I've done is drive my kids to and from school: 20 minutes a day with no phone, no radio, no video games, no computers, no interruptions. My children can talk about themselves, and I can listen. That's one of the most important gifts a parent can give to their kids: simply listen.”
—Brenda W., Westwood, Massachusetts
The surprising news is that parents are often more anxious about transitions than their children are.
“At first, the administration of the middle school did not want to create an honors class for the 6th grade. But since the parents were very vocal, the administration created the same program that they had in place for 7th and 8th graders. I was concerned at first, but my daughter thrived with the academic challenges, the availability of sports and clubs to choose from, and the interaction with students from diverse backgrounds that she was sheltered from during her elementary years.”
—Barbara W., Matawan, New Jersey
“My son was fine. His transition into junior high was harder for me than him!”
—Michelle G., Katy, Texas