How to prepare a child for transition

September is a time of change for children, whether they are transitioning to a new class or preparing to start a new school. For many children and parents, transitions cause worry and stress. Here we talk about how to prepare a child for transition. There is plenty you can do at home to help your child survive and thrive.

How is your child feeling?

Every child is different, and so is the way they react to change. Personality, age, and prior experience all affect how children feel about transitions.

Children may feel nervous particularly if they are starting a new school. They might worry about making new friends, finding their way around or meeting academic expectations.

Nervousness manifests itself in different ways. Your child might be more irritable or sensitive than usual. They might have difficulty sleeping, cling to you more or just seem restless and distracted.

It is important to reassure your child that being nervous about change is normal. Everybody worries about change to a greater or lesser extent. However, there’s a big difference between stress caused by normal life events and anxiety.

If you are concerned your child is suffering from anxiety, it is important to ask for support from your child’s GP or school.

Is your school mixing classes next year?

If your child has a solid friendship group and you have been told classes will be split and mixed next year, you may be feeling understandably apprehensive.  As a parent you want your child to be happy at school. Be reassured that your child’s headteacher also wants your child to be happy because they know happy children learn best!

These are some reasons why your child’s school may have decided to mix classes:

  • Rebalancing gender. By mixing classes schools can work towards creating a more balanced learning environment in terms of gender representation. This helps break down gender stereotypes and promotes gender equality.
  • Rebalancing ability. Mixing classes can provide opportunities for children with varying abilities to learn from each other and support each other. For example, a child who exceeds expectations in all academic subjects might benefit from collaborating with children who have advanced social, artistic or sports skills.
  • Rebalancing personalities. Changing the mix of personalities in a class can mean children can concentrate better and there is less disruption in class.
  • Broadening social interaction. Mixing classes provides an invaluable opportunity for children to make new friends which is beneficial for their personal growth and future interactions in a diverse society. It’s especially beneficial if they will soon move on to secondary school.
  • Increased choice of friends. Children can be reassured that they will still see their existing friends, even if they are in a different class. Classes usually mix during playtimes, and other times during the school day such as PE. As well as maintaining existing friendships, children will have the opportunity to explore friendships with other like-minded people they would not otherwise have met.

How can you prepare your child if their class is going to be mixed?

Although the rationale behind mixing classes is sound, it can lead to feelings of isolation and sadness for some children as they take time to adjust to new social dynamics.

To prepare your child over the summer, you could arrange playdates with old friends and perhaps one or two children who will be in their new class next year. Summer camps and extracurricular activities are also brilliant for giving children the confidence that they have the skills to make new friends.

You could reassure your child that they have made new friends before by asking them to recall a time they successfully met and played with someone new.

If you are very concerned about your child, speak to their teacher who can take extra steps to support them. For example, your child may be able to spend one-to-one time with their new teacher or extra time visiting their new classroom.

How to prepare a child for transition – top tips

Here are some tried and tested tips for supporting your child through transition:

Start a conversation

Choose an appropriate time and setting to talk to your child. Find a quiet, comfortable space where you can have a focussed conversation. Pick a time when you are both relaxed, not rushed and won’t be interrupted.

Ask open-ended questions to start a conversation. Encourage your child to express their thoughts. For example, ‘How do you feel about starting a new school?’ or ‘What are some things you are excited about?’

Listen carefully to your child. Let them know that it’s normal to feel a mix of emotions about transition. Acknowledge any worries or anxieties they have and assure them their feelings are understood. Reassure them you are there to support them through any challenges they face.

Share information

Children (and adults) often fear change because they don’t know what to expect – it’s a fear of the unknown. So, address this fear through information.

If your child is starting a new school, you could look at the school website together to find out about the facilities, teachers, and activities. Answer your child’s questions honestly and provide positive reassurance about the transition.

Read books or watch films about transitions. This can help normalise the experience and provide your child with relatable stories or characters going through similar transitions.

For younger children we recommend, Topsy and Tim Start School. Children starting secondary school can benefit from reading No Worries: Your Guide to Starting Secondary School by Jenny Alexander. For more ideas, simply Google, ‘books about transition for x year olds’.

Share your own personal stories about coping with transitions to help your child feel understood and less alone. Talk about how you overcame challenges and adapted to new environments.

Involve your child in preparations

Engage your child in age-appropriate tasks related to the transition. This can include shopping for school supplies like a new backpack. By involving them in the process, they will feel a sense of control and ownership over the transition.

Be positive

Children often take cues from parents’ attitudes. Maintain a positive, optimistic outlook about the transition, highlighting the exciting opportunities and adventures that lie ahead. Talk about the potential for making new friends, exploring different subjects or activities, and experiencing new adventures.

Your positive attitude can help alleviate your child’s worries and set a supportive tone.

Let your child know they can always come to you with questions or concerns. Reassure them that the conversation is ongoing and that you are available to support them all the way through.

Back to school with TutorMyKids

Our tutors can give your child a confident, flying start to the new school year. If you start tutoring sessions now, they will become part of your child’s accepted, weekly routine.

All our tutors are qualified and experienced teachers who understand how to motivate individual children. We offer one-to-one tuition in English, maths, science and humanities in Cambridgeshire.

To discuss how we can support your child, please contact