Janet Fox, Claesgens, Mark A. | 7/20/2007 11:44:54 PM
Whether your child is starting kindergarten, first grade, middle school or high school, the transition to a new setting can be stressful. To make a smooth transition, it’s important to take a few steps to making the transition a positive one, according to 4-H youth development expert Dr. Janet Fox.
If your child is changing schools, make a special trip together if possible to visit before the first day of classes. It’s beneficial for all to check out the new classroom and the new teacher. The visit will help ease feelings of anxiety and help get your child into the academic routine. If the class schedule is available, review it with your child to prepare for the new grade.
Parents should discuss changes in routine. The transition from summer vacation to a school routine is stressful enough; the transition to a new school can be worse.
"Parents should talk with their child about how the routine for his or her new school may differ from the previous year," Fox said, adding, "It can be difficult for children to adjust to changes in schedules and workload."
When discussing the new school, talk about how the school schedule may differ from the previous year. If the starting and ending times of school change, make your child aware of this. Look into homework requirements and talk about the potential decrease or increase in homework. When talking about the class schedule, tell your child that he or she may have more than one teacher this year.
Parents can provide important extra support. As the new school year starts, address any fears your child may have, and maintain an open dialogue through the year. If fears are academically based, talk about the classes that are particularly challenging or causing anxiety. Try to focus on the fun of learning new things.
"If your child’s fears are social in nature, reassure the youngster that other children also have these feelings," Fox said, explaining that parents can help their child reconnect with their friends. Outings with friends from school can be arranged prior to the start of school to help youth re-establish connections that may have weakened over the summer.
Different grade transitions can create their own opportunities. When your child is making the transition into kindergarten, make sure the youngster is prepared for the introduction of academics that will form the foundation of their educational career.
Kindergarten serves as your child’s introduction to elementary school and a first opportunity to learn basic math and reading skills. It offers children an opportunity to establish school routines and expectations of group learning.
"As a parent, you are your child's first teacher. Skills learned from you – how to get along with others, follow directions and listen to directions – will help start the year off right," Fox said.
The transition into middle school and high school also can bring about stress and concerns. During these years, youth transition from family influence to peer influence. Although a child might resist a parent’s support, it’s important that parents are there in a supportive role.
Because middle and high school youth are peer oriented, membership in organizations becomes especially important. Parents can play an important role in helping their child keep track of multiple subjects, homework, teachers, classrooms and books. A calendar or planner and some organizational tips can help a youth organize these new items and encouraging the preteen and teen to build good study habits.
"Whether your child is heading to kindergarten or starting high school, the weeks leading up to the start of school are crucial to a successful year," Fox emphasized, noting, "By keeping lines of communication open, understanding a child’s new routine, visiting new schools and understanding the different developmental needs of youth, you can play an important role in making the transition a smooth and painless one."
For related family topics, click on the Family and Home link at the LSU AgCenter Web site at www.lsuagcenter.com. For local information and educational programs, contact an extension agent in your parish LSU AgCenter office.