In the Parenthood

Easing end-of-school transitions

Posted by Lylah M. Alphonse  May 28, 2010 11:24 AM

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Regardless of whether she goes to kindergarten or first grade in September, my 5-1/2-year-old will be coping with a new school and new friends this fall. Her very best friend is zoned for a different elementary school, in fact, and the two of them are already trying to find ways to spend as much time as possible together, not just this summer, but next school year as well.

It might not seem like that big of a deal to us now, as adults, but for little kids, "graduation" from kindergarten or preschool to elementary school can make for some serious stress. There's some great advice out there about getting your child ready for her next academic adventure, but what about easing the transition out of the setting she already knows and loves?

I'm not talking about finding ways to celebrate, per se. Graduating preschool may be a milestone, but it's not a major accomplishment, as far as I'm concerned. (High school? Absolutely. Middle school? Maybe... depends on the child and whether he's overcome academic obstacles. There's something to be said for recognizing achievement and setting the stage for more of it, I think.)

So I'm not looking for ways to mark the end of Pre-K as much as I am trying to help a young child understand that these types of endings are a normal part of life, and that you can hold on to old friends while also making some new ones.

The experts at suggest helping your barely school-age child cope with the transition by giving them a chance to have some input. Involving them in some of the decisions, when possible, planning ahead and giving them more details, listening to their fears and concerns and accepting their feelings can go a long way toward helping them feel comfortable about the change.

When it comes to maintaining their preschool friendships, the onus is on the adults. Follow your child's lead: If the friendship seems to be petering out, consider that it may have run its course, and let it go, but if the kids miss each other, make an effort to arrange playdates away from preschool, so that meeting in a non-school setting becomes their new "normal."

Parents, please share your wisdom: How will you (or how did you) help your child manage a transition to a new school?

Lylah M. Alphonse is a Globe staff member and mom and stepmom to five kids. She writes about juggling career and parenthood at The 36-Hour Day and blogs at Write. Edit. Repeat. E-mail her at and follow her on Twitter @WriteEditRepeat.

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1 comments so far...
  1. I think young children need help with this transition even if they're staying at the same school and just moving up to the next grade. Even though my children's elementary school had a move-up day where the kids got to go sit in the classroom of their next teacher, my daughter in particular still struggled with the idea of leaving her old teacher behind. About a week after her kindergarten year was over, it suddenly hit her that she wouldn't have the same teacher again, and so she wrote the teacher a letter thanking her and telling her she would miss her. This helped more than I could have imagined, and it became a tradition that we kept for several years.

    I don't think a celebration is necessary or desirable until high school graduation. That only makes things a bigger deal than they should be, and gives kids the idea that even small milestones "deserve" a celebration, when the achievement should be its own reward.

    Posted by Ashley May 28, 10 05:07 PM
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about the author

Lylah M. Alphonse
Lylah M. Alphonse is a member of the Globe Magazine staff and mom and stepmom to five kids. She writes about juggling a full-time career and parenthood at The 36-Hour Day, and about everything else at Write. Edit. Repeat. When she's not glued to the computer or solving a kid-related crisis, she's in the kitchen or, occasionally, asleep.

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