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  • Gonzalo Laje

Tips and Tricks for Children Going to New Schools

teens walk together on a school campus

As summer draws to a close, many students find themselves experiencing a mix of excitement and nervousness as they prepare to embark on a new school year. It's common to feel anxious about the unknowns and changes that lie ahead, especially when starting the next level of school or switching to a new school! Here are some tips and tricks from a child and family therapist for handling back-to-school anxiety and supporting your child through school transitions.

Familiarize Yourself with the School:

  • Elementary Age (6-11 years old): Take a school tour with your parents or guardians to explore classrooms and playgrounds, making the environment less intimidating.

  • Middle School Age (11-14 years old): Attend any orientation events or summer programs to meet other students before the official school year begins.

  • High School Age (14-18 years old): Attend open houses or school tours to familiarize yourself with the campus layout and find classrooms before the first day.

  • Starting College (18+ years old): Attend college orientation events and campus tours to get acquainted with the college grounds, library, dorms, and essential facilities.

Familiarity with your surroundings does wonders for reducing anxiety. Nothing is more intimidating than the unknown!

Foster Positive Connections:

  • Elementary Age: Meet your teachers and see if they can introduce you to potential new friends in your class.

  • Middle School Age: Reach out to old friends who may be attending the same school or join clubs that interest you to make new friends with shared hobbies. See if you can connect with a staff member prior to starting the school year so you have a point of contact.

  • High School Age: Lookout for new school clubs, sports teams, or extracurricular activities that interest you. This can lead to making like-minded friendships! Here again, if possible, connect with a staff member prior to starting the year.

  • Starting College: Reach out to future roommates or classmates through online platforms to build connections before arriving on campus. Go to ‘meet and greets,’ club fairs, and other ‘get to know you’ events the school offers.

Society and social media make us feel like we must make best friends right away when we go somewhere new. Focus on finding opportunities that interest you, and you will meet people you can relate to along the way!

Create a Transition Plan:

  • Elementary Age: Get used to a new bedtime and morning routine. Start to implement those changes slowly a few weeks before school starts!

  • Middle School Age: Review the class schedule and mentally note where each class will be, ensuring a smoother transition between periods. Schedules get more complex, so try to use a planner or agenda.

  • High School Age: Try to prepare for the adjustment in sleep and meal schedules. Plan ahead to dedicate specific times for doing school work and relaxing after school and extracurriculars.

  • Starting College: Find your classrooms before your first day so you know where to go and how long you need to get there. A lot is going on the first few days, especially as a first-year student, so take time to organize your materials and get your books!

Tips and Tricks for Parents to Support Their Child

Establish Open Communication:

  • Elementary Age: Have regular conversations with your child about their feelings and thoughts regarding the new school, addressing any concerns they may have. Try to be open and non-judgemental, and validate all feelings!

  • Middle School Age: A lot of changes are occurring during these years. Reassure your child that you are there for them, and they can tell you anything. Avoid big reactions to their experiences and normalize how confusing and difficult life can be. Support your child when they embrace new styles, interests, and identities. Allow for more freedom in their expression and choice in their extracurricular activities.

  • High School Age: Starting high school can be overwhelming, and your child may experience mixed emotions. Be patient and available to listen and support them. Support them in developing autonomy as they mature while watching for potential red flags.

  • Starting College: Starting college can be a significant life transition, and your child may need emotional support and guidance. Allow them to come to you with their worries and troubles while away from home while adopting reasonable boundaries. Trust your child to care for themselves while always being available when they need you.

Support routine and structure while remaining flexible:

  • Elementary Age: Collaborate with your child to create a study schedule and manage time effectively to balance academics and extracurriculars. Routine can be very helpful for children this age but allow some flexibility based on daily stresses and events. Don’t forget to schedule family play time and independent relaxation time!

  • Middle School Age: Assist your child in organizing their backpack and school supplies, helping them feel prepared and organized. Create a routine around school work and gently check in about their workload and upcoming assignments.

  • High School Age: Collaborate with your teenager to create a study schedule and manage time effectively to balance academics and extracurriculars. Allow for more flexibility and autonomy. Allow your teen to make mistakes and learn from them with your support.

  • Starting College: Discuss the importance of self-care and stress management strategies, such as seeking campus counseling services or relaxing activities. Allow them to rest and calibrate when they come home, and prepare some of their favorite things they may have missed while away.

Parental support is vital at all ages, especially as your child goes through internal and external changes. Embrace your compassion and connect with your child emotionally, including when they make mistakes or exceed expectations. Allow for rest and mental health days. Listen to your child when they say they are overwhelmed or exhausted. Teach them to rejuvenate and problem-solve instead of pushing them to push through it right away. Lastly, celebrate not only their achievements but their effort. Remember that the best outcomes occur for those with the strongest support systems. Have a great school year!


Licensed Graduate Professional Counselor


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