How to Help Your Child Transition to a New School

By Melissa Taylor

Subject Areas

Big emotions are common for kids who are going back to school and especially when transitioning to a new school. How can you make this easier for your child? You can give your child emotional and informational support before he or she begins classes.


Here are some ways you can help your child transition to a new school:


Emotional Support


Encourage talking about feelings.
Listen to your child and help him or her talk about his or her worries – don’t try to solve anything, instead be empathetic and just listen. When you do speak, paraphrase. “It sounds like you are feeling . . .”


This really works! If we say less, our kids will say more. And they really need to talk, not us. Also, if we give them our ideas, we take away the opportunity for them to figure out ideas and solutions on their own.


Bibliotherapy helps children feel less alone.
Read books about going to a new school. Stories can show kids that other children have experienced similar situations. It also shows them how other kids have dealt with these situations. Here are some titles to try out:


Picture Books
Will I Have a Friend by Miriam Cohen
I Am Too Absolutely Small for School by Lauren Child


Chapter Books
Justin Case: School, Drool, and Other Daily Disasters by Rachel Vail
Ellie McDoodle: New Kid in School by Ruth McNally Barshaw
Ruby and the Booker Boys #1: Brand New School, Brave New Ruby by Derrick Barnes.


Role-play making new friends.

Your kids probably won’t want to do this. (Mine don’t.) Trust me, it really helps! Set up the possible scene: before school on the playground, in the lunchroom, or picking a partner for an activity in the classroom. You take the role of your child first to show your child dialogue options. Show facial expressions and body language and talk about how it looks to be rude versus friendly. Then switch roles. You’ll be a random kid at school and your child plays himself or herself.


Informational Support


Visit the school, playground, and classroom.
The more a child knows about his upcoming situation, the better. See if you can tour the school, visit the classroom, meet the teacher, and play on the playground. Being able to visualize the new school will help ease some of those worries of the unknown.


Meet classmates.
Ask the school if any other parents would be willing to meet at a park for a play date. If your child can meet a few kids before the year begins, it really helps with those first day jitters.


Shop for school supplies.
Make back-to-school shopping fun. Get your lists together and let your child choose the colors and styles he or she wants for notebooks, pens and papers. While you shop, imagine together what sort of things he or she will be learning in school with those supplies. Don’t forget the clothes. New outfits to wear can be something fun and exciting to look forward to.


The more information a child has before starting a new school, the less there will be to worry about. Also, the more emotional support you can give a child, the more comfortable he or she will be. It probably isn’t possible to completely remove all worries. These strategies will, however, make your child’s new school transition much easier.


And when in doubt, hugs always work!