Dear Teacher: Transitioning to new level of school can be stressful

It's a big transition time for our three children as each is moving to a new level in school. I'm not sure the child moving to middle school is too anxious; however, both the one going to high school and the one going to college are definitely worrying about what their new experiences will be like. What are some things that I can do to curb their anxiety? -- Calming Influence

Hopefully all of your children have visited their new schools so they have a good idea of the physical layouts. Middle schools and high schools and even colleges usually have helpful orientation sessions before the new school year begins. If your children haven't had this opportunity, try to arrange a school visit for them. The more familiar your children are with the new environment, the more comfortable they will feel.

Besides visiting a school in person, the children should visit the different schools' websites. It will definitely increase what they know about a school with information about policies, vacation dates, grading and possibly pictures of the teachers.

Feeling comfortable is also enhanced if your children reconnect with former classmates before the first day of school. It can be very helpful if they arrange to go with friends they already know on this day. This even includes college students.

It also pays dividends for children to talk to students who are attending or have recently attended their new schools. They can give helpful insight about things to do and not do.


Another way for children to get perspective on what a new experience will be like is through reading. There are many books that tell about transitioning from one level to another. A helpful guide for parents is "Middle School: The Inside Story: What Kids Tell Us, But Don't Tell You."

Older students will like stories by students and their experiences. "Been There" is a good choice for students entering high school, and a wide variety of books are available on what being a college freshman is like.

Finally, let your children talk about their feelings about attending new schools. Admit to them that change can be stressful, but that it is also part of growing up.

Summer language arts activity

Summer vacation may be over or ending soon for your children. For their last activity, have them experience different forms of handwriting that were used in the past. Have them try writing with a stylus on clay or Play Dough as the first writing was done. Next, they should discover what it was like in the middle ages when illuminators and painters often used very fine brushes and ink.

Then your children can relive how students did their classroom work in the early 1800s using quills and ink. This will be messy! However, even today, quills are still being used by professional calligraphers. After the 1820s, metal pens were used with ink. You may not be able to find these pens. However, if you have old fountain pens, let your children experience writing with them. Then bring them up to to today and have them write with markers.

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