8 thoughts on transitioning to a new school

Thom DickFeatured, SchoolLeave a Comment

Depending on your child heading back to school might be exciting or terrifying. However, transitioning to a new school is always tricky. Here are 8 thoughts on making the transition a little bit smoother.

ONE: Do a drive-by

We are scared of the unknown, so make the school a little less scary by paying it a visit. Most schools will be proactive with new grades coming in, but in most cases, those visits were 2 months ago! It’s worth driving by the school again. Ask your kids to show you what they remember. What playground will be theirs? (And what looks like the most fun piece of the playground?) Which door will they go through? If possible actually head inside the school for a walk-around to see the classrooms, gym and where the washrooms are.

TWO: Talk about the transition

Talking about the transition, along with any feelings both positive and negative will help validate both. There’s a phrase in psychology, “name it to tame it” which means that when we feel big feelings we can calm them down by just saying them out loud. Big feelings come from the nonverbal feeling parts of our brains so when we name those emotions out loud, we tame them because speaking engages the verbal thinking parts of our brains. In short, talking helps.

THREE: Pray for good friends

A friend makes ALL the difference in the world! Everyone needs friends, but an ally when things are changing around us can help us. Transitioning to a new school may mean class list changes. It might mean that your child is going from a small middle school to a huge high school. You can’t be there to help your kid through the day, a great friend can. Make sure that when you pray about making friends (or keeping old ones), that you become very practical on how to actually do that.

FOUR: Pray for an understanding and kind teacher

I’ve just returned from a full summer at camp. The second to last week of camp the weather was awful. I mean it rained a bit, but it was the cold that got to us. Who wants to swim when it’s 16 degrees outside in the sun? You might think that a camper’s experience is pretty dependant on the weather while at camp, but it isn’t – at least not nearly to the degree that people assume. The deciding factor between a good week and an awful week is the counselor. A week of rain and tornadoes is an adventure with an awesome counselor. A week of sun and comfortable temperatures can be AWFUL with a lousy counselor. It comes down to that. So pray for an understanding and kind teacher. That will make a big difference.

FIVE: Ask God for a promise

It’s a good idea to listening prayer with your kids before the school year anyway but even more so in the critical transitions between elementary and middle school, middle school and high school. These are times that signal something new and it’s interesting how often God uses them to do something new IN us as well. Help your children to listen for a Bible verse that God highlights for them as their theme verse for the year, or even for the next few years. Print it out and put it up in their room.

SIX: Celebrate the transition

We aren’t great at rites of passage like in earlier times. But let’s be honest graduating from grade 4 to grade 5 signals something significant going on, even physically with our children. This is awesome! It means kids are growing up and teens are becoming young adults. If we celebrate the growth, it will be seen as more positive and that will help. Planning a family dinner to celebrate a new school migth make things exciting enough to overcome the jitters.

SEVEN: Teach your kids about WHY life can seem so overwhelming

Transitions are difficult at the best of times; they are just plain overwhelming when combined with the hormones and confusing big new feelings of puberty. Grade 5 is often close to the onset of puberty and grade 9 is puberty full throttle. With the increasing ability to think more abstractly, kids in grade 5 will start to assume they know what other people are thinking about THEM. (And judge themselves accordingly.) This is very unnerving. Meanwhile, by grade 9 the pressure to impress the opposite gender and date is super intense and overwhelming. We need to help our kids understand puberty so they understand how to handle the intensity that comes with it.

EIGHT: Take a deep breath

Your kids have been growing up since they were born. They will continue to grow up. We all miss the happy parts of children’s earliest years, but we tend to forget that they weren’t potty-trained then. I for one and glad that my children are growing up! Along with the baffling behavior and occasional emotional outbursts, comes the chance to play grown-up games. If you are forever worked up and emotional that your kids are growing up, you will make them apprehensive. So take a deep breath, hug your kid before they have a chance to run away, and send them on to the new adventure that awaits them this year in school!

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About the Author
Thom Dick

Thom Dick

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Thom is an Associate Pastor at Southland Church in Steinbach, Manitoba and has worked with children and youth for 17 years. He and his wife, Tara, have 5 kids; 4 boys, and a daughter. The kids are spread across 20 years too, so that gives him plenty of experimental material to write about! They have also welcomed 27 foster children into their home over the past number of years. He's on Instagram as @thomaswdick.

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