Each year, your child moves from summer to school, and from one grade to the next. As he advances, it’s important for him to have continuity between home and school, and between classrooms. Here are 11 ways to make these key transitions seamless.

From Home to School

Whether it’s first day of school or the 100th, creating a smooth home-to-school transition will help your child start each day off right.

Preview the School. In the weeks leading up to the first day, visit your child’s school, tour the classroom, and meet her teacher. Afterward, talk about who she’ll see, what she’ll do, and what she’ll learn at school, so she’s mentally prepared.

Individualize Your Child’s Routine. Create a school-day routine that’s specific for your child, suggests Margret Nickels, director of the Erikson Institute Center for Children and Families. Your child may want to see a picture of the morning routine, or she may like verbal reminders, “two more minutes to brush your teeth, then its time for breakfast.”  

Spend Time on Social Skills. Working with other kids and solving problems independently are important aspects of every grade. During the summer, set up opportunities for your child to play with other kids, suggests Claire King, associate director of the Indiana University Center for P-16 Research and Collaboration. As she plays, encourage her to solve problems independently, instead of relying on adults to solve every issue.

Address Separation Anxiety Separation anxiety can surface at any time during the school year, says Nickels. If your child becomes more clingy than usual, give her a concrete way to remember when she’ll see you again. “I’ll pick you up after you put away your naptime mat,” for example.  
Send a Reminder of Home. Another way to address separation anxiety, suggests Nickels, is to give your child a purse or small backpack with comforting objects from home. That could be a picture of Mom and Dad, a tiny stuffed animal, or a book that you read together.  

Start a Back-and-Forth Journal. A notebook that your child carries from home to school can be helpful, says Chris Maxwell, director of the Erikson Institute’s New Schools Project. Each morning, write a short note, such as, “Last night, we read Cinderella and loved it!” The teacher will use that information to connect with your child, and send a short note home so you can talk about his day at school. “It’s not a daily report card,” says Maxwell, “but a way to keep information flowing between parents and teachers.”

Give Your Child Reminders. If your child’s after school schedule changes daily, King suggests coming up with a system of reminders. Put a flower sticker on his lunch bag if he’s going to grandma’s after school, or a smiley face sticker if it’s the day he goes to an after school program.

From Grade to Grade. As your child moves from grade to grade, he’ll move from teacher to teacher, and often experience different work and behavior expectations. Make sure the connection between grades is strong with these strategies.

Introduce Your Child. Before the first day of school, call the school and set up a time to meet with your child’s teacher. At the meeting, explain who your child is, including his strengths, unique characteristics and sensitivities, and what he needs help with. “The teacher will be grateful if [you] help them get to know the child as fast as possible,” says Nickels. Also during the meeting, suggests Maxwell, ask how the teacher plans to make sure that the kids pick up where they left off in the grade before.

Set Up Home-to-School Routines. If one teacher has a routine that was helpful—sending homework folders home each day as a form of communication, for example—ask the next teacher if you can keep up that routine.

Spend the Summer Preparing. Talk to the teacher in your child’s next classroom to find out which activities or expectations will be new. Then, during the summer, pretend play new routines, suggests Nickels. You may set up circle time with dolls and stuffed animals, or have “work time” to encourage your child to sit still and work for longer periods of time. 
Ask Your Child. Ask your child about his thoughts and feelings too. For young children, even a move from one room to another in the same hallway can be a big deal. Older children may worry about being the youngest grade in a new school, or may be excited to finally be able to try out for a school sports team.

Whether your child is moving from home to school for the first time, or are going from first to second grade, with support and collaboration, transitions can be an exciting part of watching your child grow up.