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Helping Our Children Transition

"Mission Impossible," Leadership, May 1998

Change is a fundamental part of our lives. It may serve as a catalyst for growth, energize us, and help us move forward. Change, for others, may cause tremendous anxiety, hindering this growth and exploration. Some of the changes in our lives are very predictable, such as moving from elementary to middle school and from middle school to high school. These events are milestones in our lives - rites of passage. We are both excited and afraid of these transitions. There are things we need to be aware of as our children make these changes.

According to a three-year study co-sponsored by NASP, "Strengthening School Transitions for Students K-12," students identified the following concerns:

  • Adjusting to early rising and a longer school day, leading to late-night homework, and chronic fatigue
  • A larger number of students, crowded hallways, more complex schedules, finding classrooms
  • Insufficient stay time during the school day
  • Less explaining, less reminding, and less guidance from teachers
  • Distractions from undisciplined student's who "goof-off" and are not controlled by the school
  • Poor preparation for longer writing assignments, essays, and term papers
  • More difficulty getting to know their teachers
  • Time demands of school activities and balancing these demands with increased homework
  • Keeping track of homework, long range assignments, reading volume, having the right materials in class, crowded halls, distant lockers.

Teachers identified the following concerns:

  • Changing classes
  • More teachers to deal with
  • New grading standards and procedures
  • No recess, free time
  • Dealing with older students
  • Lack of experience with extra-curricular activities
  • Adolescent physical changes

Providing our children with the information, resources, and support they need to become confident members of a new school is a challenging task. Ideally, administrators, teachers, parents, and students should all work together to make these transitions as smooth as possible.

On the Move

Many parents have little or no control over the moves that their families make. They can assist their children in adapting to change and can strengthen their children through change. To come out of the turmoil of a move at a higher level of family functioning, parents can do the following:

  • Discuss with the children the plan to move as soon as the decision to move has been made.
  • Realize that a move is stressful for every member of the family.
  • Each family member needs to provide understanding and support to each other.
  • Keep lines of communication open.
  • Try to maintain daily routine.
  • Assist children in seeking information about the new location by writing to such agencies as the Chamber of Commerce.
  • Allow children to make some decisions about what to take along so that they have a sense of control over their lives.
  • Request that the moving company load the children's possessions last in order that they might be the first removed from the shipment to provide an immediate familiar environment.
  • Teach children their routes to school, their new addresses, and their phone numbers.
  • Discuss the initial class placement with the new classroom teachers.
  • Make the new school aware of any potential health problems.
  • Supply friends at the "old" school with the new address in order that the children might receive letters and cards shortly after their arrival at the new home.
  • Spend time together in family activities, such as "exploring" the new environment.
  • Recognize that children adjust and make new friends at their own pace.

Source: NASP Publication Policy Handbook