Moving school

Anticipation is in the air, as thousands of children prepare to leave their old familiar school and venture into the world of ‘big school’. Whether your child is leaving nursery to go to school for the first time, starting secondary school or just moving to a new school there are many ways you can help them feel secure and confident about the transition.

Ensuring a smooth transition

Many schools will have had an induction day, where children get a taster at the school they will be attending. Some will have met their new teacher, visit their new class and possibly meet their classmates too.

If your child has not been lucky enough to do this, the following suggestions are even more important to help your child feel happy about going to the new school. Preparation is the key to help your child mentally adjust to the move.

14 top tips to help your child adapt well to a new school

  1. School visit
    Make sure your child visits the new school. It is best if this is when other children are in the school. However, if this cannot be arranged, go to the school and take a look from the outside. Ask your child to imagine what it will be like inside and the sort of things that will happen in a school day. With your knowledge of the school help them build up a good picture of what it will be like.
  2. Make friends before school starts
    If you know any children who will be in your child’s new class, try to meet up with them in the holidays, so that your child knows at least one child when they walk through the door.
  3. Talk about the school day
    When your child is relaxed, start talking about the school day. Talk about what will happen about dropping them off, collecting them at the end of school, where you will wait and at what time, meal times, play-times and the sort of lessons they will be having. Mention anything that you think your child is going to enjoy.
  4. Read about the school beforehand
    If you have a school prospectus or can access a website, look at it with your child. Talk about what you find out and how it may affect your child.
  5. Have fun buying the uniform and equipment
    Involve your child when you go out to buy their uniform or any equipment (especially lunch boxes) they will need for school. Let your child try on the new school uniform. Don’t forget to tell them how grown up and good they look in it!
  6. Practice skills they will need
    If your child is starting primary school practice skills that they will need at school. This may include putting on their shoes and possibly tying shoelaces, getting changed for PE, even wiping their own bottom! If they are struggling, break the skill into small micro-skills and practice each little bit until your child feels confident.
  7. Try out food on the lunch menu
    If your child is going to have a cooked lunch, introduce them to some of the food on the menu over the holidays. If this is going to be a big issue work out strategies to help your child cope with unfamiliar foods or trying new tastes. (I love the suggestion of Noel Janis Norton of having a ‘first course’ of 6-8 tiny amounts (about ¼ of a pea-sized) of different foods which the child needs to eat before eating the second main course.
  8. Be positive, but empathise with concerns
    Be positive when you talk about the experience of school. At the same time, listen to your child’s concerns, empathise with them and ask them how they could deal with any situations they are worried about. If you are feeling emotional about your child going to school, try to keep it to yourself. (At least until they are out of sight on their first day!)
  9. Discuss and practice friendship skills 
    Talk to your child about how to be a good friend. Over the holidays let them practice the skills of meeting new children; smiling; introducing themselves; taking turns; playing with other children; asking another child what they want to play; thinking up good games to play; and having fun & interesting conversations.
    Teach your child how to join in a game. Do a role play where you pretend to be doing something. Encourage your child to approach you and and ask if he or she can join the game.
  10. Read books
    Read books together about starting school
  11. Get into a good routine before school starts
    Towards the end of the holidays, look at the time and discuss with your child what they might be doing at that time when they are at school. This is also the time to be bringing bedtime forwards to get them ready for the early start to the day. (Once your child starts school, they may be very tired so plan to allow your child plenty of sleep. Possibly as much as 12 hours for primary school children at the start)
  12. Prepare in advance
    The day before school starts make sure your child knows exactly what is going to happen. What time they will wake up when they need to be at school. Where and when you will drop them off and when and where you will wait when they come out. Help them feel as positive as you can. Lay the school uniform out and have everything ready for the following morning. Then make sure they get a good nights’ sleep.
  13. Allow plenty of time 
    When the day finally arrives, allow yourself plenty of time. Give your child a good breakfast, and allow plenty of time to get to the school. If you can, a few photos will help your child remember this special day. Don’t let them see if you are feeling upset. When the bell rings give them a final goodbye (with a hug and a kiss if possible) and leave promptly.
  14. Give yourself a pat on the back
    Finally congratulate yourself. If you have done most of the above you will have been instrumental in giving your child the very best start possible to their new school life. Give yourself a treat for a job well done!!!!

If your child is likely to need more help preparing for a school move, book a session with Elizabeth. To create an action plan to help them adapt well.

child behavioural expert
The author:

Elizabeth O’Shea is a parenting specialist child behaviour expert and one of the leading parenting experts in the UK.

Need help now? Ready to explore whether investing in some tailor-made parenting sessions would be right for you and your family? Book your FREE 20-minute call with Elizabeth here