Those Pesky Little Transitions

Written By: Rachel Strong
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Transitions are rarely easy, yet we have to encounter them every day of our lives. For school-aged children, transitions are extremely traumatic, though they may not admit that.

The first day of kindergarten may be more traumatic for parents than for students, but it is the first step toward independence, and that thought can be scary for both of you!

For six or seven years in elementary school, your child slowly works his or her way up to the top of the social mountain. Now, he or she is being asked to do something unheard of-pick the classes he or she WANTS to take next year. Except you have to start at the bottom again.

After two or three years in middle school, slowly climbing to the top again, your student drops once again to the bottom of the heap, a freshman. Then, after four years of nothing but changes-physical, emotional, sociological, and scholastic-the largest transition of all comes-from childhood to adulthood.

To help your child through these (fairly minor to us) transitions, you first need to keep a few things in mind.

First, keep in mind that these transitions can be extremely scary for your child-even if he doesn't let on. Fear or concern over the unknown even if you believe (as your children may) everything will work itself out in the end, is a valid fear. If something already traumatic has happened in your child's life to disrupt his or her support system (such as a divorce or a death in the family), this can make your child's new position in school even more terrifying.

Make sure your student knows you are available to talk at any time... and then be available!

One of the largest transitions in school is moving from elementary school to middle school. A middle school is usually at least twice as large as an elementary school and with this comes not only a new school, but new classmates, more opportunities and the possibility of electives on the horizon.

If your student's new school sends home a class schedule before registration, sit down with your student and help him or her find the right schedule and right combination of classes. (This will also ensure that you know what classes your student is taking next year!) This may also be a good time to talk to your child about what he or she might want as a career (but don't pour on the pressure!). Help him or her choose classes that fit in with that dream. If your student wants to take classes with his or her friends, that's great, within reason. (If your child's BFF Jill is in a math class two levels below your student, Little Suzy should not be in Jill's class.)

If you and your student differ on which electives he or she should take, defer to your child. Ultimately, this is your child's decision and you need to let him or her choose.

The transition from middle to high school is fairly seamless compared to the last one. While high school brings in more students again, the basic premise is the same. However, your child will most likely become more socially active and definitely more mobile, with the acquisition of his or her drivers privileges.

After high school comes the largest transition of all-into adulthood. The nest is left and your baby bird starts living his or her own life.

As parents, it is our job to help our children grow up to be able to handle life's transitions, and the transitions school brings are no exception. While our job as parents is never over because as we are they one day will be, the most we can do is hold their hands and help them through the huge-and don't forget the minute-transitions in life.

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