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Returning to school this September

Returning to school this September

Many children will be returning to the classroom this September, with some attending their first day at secondary school and others stepping into the classroom for the very first time. 

These transitions can be an exciting time for both children and their parents… but can also be a daunting change. 

Transitions are important for children to feel safe

Prior to the pandemic, it was standard practice to have ‘transition days’ or afternoons where children spent an allotted time in their new classroom with their new teacher. This time often included get-to-know-you activities such as circle time, arts and crafts or reading a book as a class. 

Other transition support included:

  • Meeting their new teacher and spending time getting to know them
  • Exploring their new classroom
  • Writing letters about themselves for their new teachers
  • Visiting their new school and having transition days (secondary schools).

Unfortunately, due to Covid restrictions, transition days couldn’t happen like they normally would - this may have left children feeling anxious and unprepared for the next step in their school journey.

Why are transitions important?

For lots of children, moving into Reception might be their first time in a school environment, which can be a nerve-wracking experience for a five year old! 

Similarly, children moving from primary school to secondary school have not only been used to a smaller school environment, but also being supported closely by their teachers. In comparison, secondary schools are much bigger, with long corridors and many places to get lost! Children are expected to take more responsibility for their learning and will have gone from being big fish in a small pond to small fish in a very big pond! 

Transitions not only help children feel more confident in their new surroundings, but also  help them to feel safe and secure. This is especially important for children with additional needs who benefit from exploring their new environment and becoming familiar with new people. 

Meet the teacherMeeting the teacher is beneficial for both children and teachers. It is important that children feel safe and able to approach a trusted adult for help should they need it. Transition days support children in developing a relationship with their new teacher and sets them up for a positive experience in their new year group. 

Check out our FREE Transition Day Activities Pack!

How do you support a child during school transitions? 

So what can you do to support your children moving to the next stage of their school journey? We have put together some top tips to support you in supporting your children! 

Keeping the lines of communication open 

Talk to your child, let them know you are there for them. If they don’t want to talk, let them know you will be ready to listen when they are ready to talk. Try to avoid making your child feel under pressure during the conversation or minimising what they say. Sometimes just being present is the most important thing we can do. 

Some great responses to validate feelings are, ‘I can hear you feel really nervous about...’, ‘Gosh, I can see how that would feel scary’. Responses like this let your child know you have listened, and you can acknowledge and name the feeling without confirming it.    

Our free Synonym Book of Emotions or the Mood Trackers for Kids sheet could help your child learn and use the vocabulary they need to explain how they are feeling.   

Give control where you can

Having a sense of control can ease anxiety and create a feeling of stability, but be careful not to overpromise. For example, let your child decide the order they complete agreed tasks, but don’t give them free rein on what the tasks are. Decide together what fun things you’ll do this week, but don’t plan something you have no control over, for example, what will happen at school. 

Develop a positive mindset

Children are very intuitive and will be aware of your feelings towards their school transition. Make sure to use positive language when talking about going back to school. Some good phrases to use are ‘I’m so excited for you!’, ‘I wonder what exciting things you will learn about?, ‘You’re going to have so much fun!’.

Other ways to support your child…

  • Arrange playdates with other children who will be in the same class
  • Encourage older children to meet up with children who will be going to their new school
  • Do practice runs of their new journey to school 
  • If you’ve been given a transition pack, go through it with your child and make sure it is available for them to access as they wish.
Read more advice for parents in our ‘How to support children’s return to school’ blog.
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