Easing kids' way when 'back to school' means a new school

Although it might seem that summer has just begun, the new school year is looming.

Every year kids go from preschool to kindergarten, switch from elementary school to middle school or start the final stretch at high school. Those transitions can be challenging.

We asked visitors to to offer some suggestions on a smooth transition from one school to another. Here's some of what they said. Many of our contributors speak from experience.

Look out for stress

"As a child, I not only had to transition from elementary school to middle school, but I went from one state to another. Needless to say, this was a very difficult change for me. Without a doubt, getting your child involved in an after-school program will help the child build a new core group of friends. From there, the other children will be able to introduce your child to their friends, and new relationships will be born.

"It is important to never underestimate the stress of a child in such situations. Failure to fully understand the needs of a child can turn a straight A student into a D or F student and result in lifelong changes that involve drugs and crime and the need to do what is wrong just to 'fit in.' I have seen this play out several times both in the right and wrong direction." — Steven Gabbard, Lexington

Map success

"We helped our 6-year-old transition from kindergarten to first grade at a new school by giving him a map of the floor plan of the new school and having him go on a 'treasure hunt' with it. He looked for items in the school that begin with certain letters or found the route from what we were told was his homeroom to the cafeteria and to the playground. We also had him help us paint and make designs on a new bookcase for his room that would hold all his new books and important things he needs for school."Michele Douglas, Louisville

Party on

"Last year, we had a great start to a transitional year. I contacted the school counselor in July and found out the names of some girls who would be in my daughter's grade and classes. Then we had a back-to-school swim party. We played lots of ice-breaker games and had getting-to-know-you activities. When school started, they had a major shared experience which was helpful in the transition. We had also made some locker 'bling' and other craft stuff for school. They had a ball and it really helped my daughter settle in with friends."— Molly Toney, Lexington


"Last year in middle school, I had my daughter in a mentor program. She got to hang out with a high school student, went over to the high school where she got to look around and meet a few teachers. Also being involved with the teachers was a plus as was going to the open house. Stay involved." — Tina Joiner, Lexington

Internet insight

"The Transition One Stop Web site ( provides information related to the many transitions we encounter across our life spans. It is designed as a resource for anyone going through, or helping someone with, a life change including people with disabilities who may have additional needs during times of transition. There are resources, forums, discussion threads and much more. I have found it to be extremely helpful." — Michelle Johnson, Lexington

Get a head start

"Take the child to the school to let them meet their teachers before school starts. Enroll them in a program during the prior summer that will have them involved with kids around the same age group or one to two years older to help them adapt. My daughter went out for color guard upon entering high school. Once classes started her freshman year, she already knew over 150 kids and knew her way around her new school!" — Stephanie Moore, Lexington