As our children progress through their school life, they will encounter many changes. From different classroom settings, different teachers, different year groups to different schools. No matter the change, these transitions can be a worrying time for both children and parents. A back-to-school survey conducted by YouGov found that 53% of 11-year-olds were worried about moving to secondary school and 53% of 8-year-olds were worried about friendships and bullying. Will they be ok when they get lost and can’t find their classroom? Will they be able to organise themselves across the different subject areas? How will they respond to differing teaching styles and personalities? How can you protect them against bullying and prepare them for difficult friendship dynamics? There are several things you can do to support your child in managing their concerns and equipping them with the skills and mindset they need to embrace this new challenge.
Know the unknown:
A lot of fears around new experiences stem from the unknown. ‘What will my classroom look like?’, ‘Who will my teacher be?’, ‘Will I have any friends in my class?’, ‘What if the work is too difficult?’. A great way to taper some of these thoughts is to do a little research to find out the answers. In most cases, children will have the opportunity to spend some time in their new classroom with their new teacher, or to visit their new school. If you can get a photo of the new school or classroom, this can be a great way to familiarise your child with the space and get them used to it. Try to get hold of timetables so your child knows the format of the day and who their teachers will be. Some schools might also offer a buddy system to support the children with making friends and having someone to show them around.
Remember your resilience:
Whether your child can remember or not, they will have experienced another point in their life when they felt afraid or nervous to try something. Most probably, they did it and loved it. Remind your child of a time when they faced a fear, tried something new and of how it felt. By recalling those positive emotions and feelings, your child will feel more equipped to cope with their worries about the transition. Help them to visualise a positive and happy first day, imaging themselves confidently making new friends and completing all their class work.
Turn nervousness to excitement:
We all know that feeling of butterflies in our stomach. This sensation can come from nervousness or excitement. These two emotions are extremely closely linked and can manifest themselves in the same way in the body. Next time your child is feeling nervous in their tummy, ask them to turn the feeling into an excited one. Imagine the butterflies flitting about with excitement! Remind them that it’s possible to feel excited and tentative at the same time.
Celebrate and reflect on the first day:
At the end of the first day of a new transition, give your child the opportunity to debrief on the day. Encourage them to focus on the moments they enjoyed as well as those things they may have found challenging. If they’re open to it, ask them to reflect on the day using I liked… I wish… I wonder…. what did they like about the day, what is one thing they wished was different and then help them focus their curiosity on what tomorrow might bring. Reflecting on the day and giving your child a space to be heard, can have enormous benefits on their feelings for the next day. Celebrate with a special meal or favourite dessert.
Whether your child is transitioning to the next year group or moving to an entirely new school, it is important for them to know their feelings and concerns are completely valid and they are not alone in what they are experiencing. Our online Masterclasses are a great way for your child to meet other children of their own age who may be experiencing similar worries and provide an opportunity to help prepare them for their transition. Masterclass sessions run for ages 5-7, 8-10 and 11-13. Sessions for age 11-13 include the following topics:
Within the Masterclass sessions, your child will learn strategies to ease their anxieties, learn to identify their strengths in order to grow their confidence and how to make friends and be independent in their thinking so they can avoid comparison culture and be true to themselves. Essential skills such as how to assert yourself in front of strong characters and how to navigate the ups and downs of friendships are explored. These sessions are a great way to help them develop the tools they need to embrace this new phase of school and get the most out of it.
You can sign your child up for a free 2 week trial of Masterclass sessions, find out more here. Your child could join up to 6 online sessions to help prepare them for their transition, for free!
Our Masterclass focuses on 'every day leadership', helping children to reflect on their strengths and how to impact others.
Other topics that we cover:
This article was written by Louise Treherne, Director of Character Education at Role Models. Louise has a degree in Psychology, 12 years experience as a teacher, including 5 years as a Senior Deputy Head at a London Prep school. She now works as a Professional Coach and Educational Consultant
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