Whether it be a move to a different school or just a different classroom, the end of the year is often a bitter-sweet period for school-aged children and their families. While the final weeks of Term 4 are filled with many celebrations, such as graduations, formals, year 6 fun days, summer and Christmas, the end-of-year also brings with it ‘goodbyes’, ‘thank you's’ and the uncertainty of the new year. Understanding the ways in which school transitions impact children can be the first step to supporting them through this tricky period.
Relationships with Staff
We often think of school as a place for learning and academic pursuits. But at the heart of good teaching is good relationships, and your child’s relationship with their teacher is very important. The teacher is someone who spends 25+ hours every week with your child, helps them when they are scared, sad or angry, celebrates their strengths and achievements, and provides structure and safety. It is therefore understandable that children are upset by the knowledge that their time with their teacher is coming to an end and anxious when they think about who might fill those shoes next year. For those students moving to a different school entirely, they may experience a sense of loss with multiple staff who have taught or supported them along the way.
How you can help
- Help your child pick out a small gift for their teacher or help them make a card to say thank you.
- Talk to your child about the things they will miss about their current teacher or support staff.
- Help your child make a scrapbook or picture of their best memories from their current class.
- Ask your child’s school how they manage transitions to their new classes so you can prepare your child for when this change will occur.
- Ask the school if they can handover important documents to the incoming teacher, such as Individual Learning Plans, Behaviour Support Plans, and general information about the way the current teacher supports your child.
Relationships with Peers
Friendships and the way in which children navigate the difficulties and dramas that inevitably arise is another important part of school-life. Friends leaving, transitioning to a different school, or not knowing who will be in their class next year can result in anxiety and difficulties with peers. For others, the mere thought of having to wait two whole months to see their friends again can be worrying. If transitioning to a new school, children may be concerned about whether they will easily make new friends and what might happen if they don’t. They may also grieve some of the friendships that end or change.
How you can help
- Plan time to catch up with friends over the school holidays or consider a school holiday program for your child to continue to make these connections.
- Discuss other ways that children can connect with parental guidance such as over Zoom or through online games/messaging apps.
- Discuss who your child does/does not want to be in a class with next year. While you may not have any control over class placement, having the conversation with your child can provide insight into some of these worries and be valuable information for the incoming teacher.
The Physical Environment
If you have ever wandered through a school, you’ll notice how different each classroom can be. From the way the teacher decorates, to the resources available, to the expectations about what supplies to bring yourself, classrooms are often as unique as the teachers that occupy them. These differences can bring unforeseen challenges, especially for those children who are hypersensitive to sensory changes. The end of the year also marks the start of two months of holidays that often have relatively less daily structure than school. While some children love not having structure in their day, others thrive on a routine environment and will miss physically being at school.
How you can help
- Talk with your child about the things that like best about their current classroom and the things they like about different classrooms.
- Ask your current teacher to handover information any materials or resources that are unique to your child such as wobble chairs/boards, headphones, assistive technology, quiet spaces etc.
- If you know that the classroom your child is moving into will pose a difficulty for your child.
- Consider having a daily routine continue through the school holidays. This will not only assist those children who like structure, but aid in the transition back to school in 2021 for all.
Finally, it is important to remember that children, families and schools are resilient. No year has highlighted that fact more than 2020. Between remote learning and social distancing restrictions, children and the adults that support them have done a fantastic job of helping each other through an incredibly tough year!