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Transition Points: Helping Students Start, Change, and Move Through the Grades (page 2)

By — NYU Child Study Center
Updated on Jul 9, 2010

How schools can help

  • Teachers and other staff should be aware of the challenges typical at different points in a student's academic career. Anticipating the causes of stress and normalizing the experiences for parents and students can be a first step in minimizing any negative impact.
  • When the new school year brings a change to a new school, schools can prepare children for the transition by arranging visits to the new school and scheduling meetings with new teachers and the new principal. Orientation to new buildings and new expectations should happen more than one time. And once the school year starts, a big sibling program can help -- teaming up a new student with an older student.
  • When changes in the structure of the school day will be involved in the next year, as in moving to a departmentalized program, practice experiences can be provided on a smaller scale the year before. For example, some elementary schools prepare children for the transition into middle school by providing more specific work on study skills and having different teachers teach courses. The impact of the transition can be softened by giving students plan books, binders, homework folders, etc.
  • Although homework expectations and the consequences for noncompliance are the school's responsibility, input from students and parents should be considered. If, for example, a majority of parents report that students are spending an unreasonable amount of time on assignments at home, homework practices should be reconsidered.
  • Collaborate with parents. A child's parents can be a useful source of information about a child's academic history. Prior school experiences, both positive and negative, influence both children's and parents' expectations and should be considered when engaged in problem-solving.

What parents can do

Be aware of the different age-related, social and academic challenges children face at various stages and that times of transition can be an added stress. Also know the specific needs of the child that makes transitions harder.

Consider personal and family situations that may impact the child and make a particular year more difficult. Inform and collaborate with the school staff to obtain the best support.

Prepare the child for new school experiences by discussing the changes beforehand and phase in necessary adjustments ahead of time. For example, at the end of a vacation gradually set an earlier bedtime to make entry into the new routine smoother.

Young children can be helped to separate from parents and interact with new school-mates by providing them with opportunities to spend time with friends or relatives without their parents. Arrange play dates, play groups and other opportunities for socialization. Introduce some school-type activities at home, such as story time, snack time, and rest time.

Form a partnership with the child's teachers and school personnel. In meetings, listen to their point of view and let them explain their expectations. Children can behave differently at home than in school when under stress from academic and social challenges.

Keep hands off assignments; act as a guide or resource for children. Discuss possible ways to do the assignment, but don't actually do the work.

If homework keeps the child up well past the usual bedtime, despite the fact that the child is putting forth his or her best effort, discuss the issue with the teacher. The aim of both parents and teachers should be to prevent parent/child homework conflict and to help the child avoid feeling incompetent.

Be alert to the specific situations or types of assignments that are particularly difficult for your child. Investigate the problem with the school and consider obtaining an educational evaluation.

About the Authors

Robin F. Goodman, Ph.D. ATR-BC, is a clinical psychologist specializing in bereavement issues.

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About the NYU Child Study Center

The New York University Child Study Center is dedicated to increasing the awareness of child and adolescent psychiatric disorders and improving the research necessary to advance the prevention, identification, and treatment of these disorders on a national scale. The Center offers expert psychiatric services for children, adolescents, young adults, and families with emphasis on early diagnosis and intervention. The Center's mission is to bridge the gap between science and practice, integrating the finest research with patient care and state-of-the-art training utilizing the resources of the New York University School of Medicine. The Child Study Center was founded in 1997 and established as the Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry within the NYU School of Medicine in 2006. For more information, please call us at (212) 263-6622 or visit us at http://www.aboutourkids.org/.

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