School Transitions
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May 2023

The end of the school year can be an exciting and nervous time for students, especially for those who will be making a major transition. For these students, there are many curiosities and questions about academic difficulty, managing a social life and handling coursework.   
At each transition your child generally undergoes many different changes. These  can be anything from an increase in the size of the school, to a change in friends that they meet. Every child adapts to transitions differently and there are a number of factors that influence how easily they adapt. This Snapshot offers you some guidance to support a successful transition to the next major stepping stone for your child. 
Starting kindergarten is an adjustment for everyone. This new chapter in your child's life may be filled with emotions that impact you and your child in ways you didn't anticipate. It‘s exciting and stressful and scary. It can also be so much fun! The friends your child will make, the teachers they will love, and the fun they will have will more than make up for the anxiety of the first few weeks. 

Many parents wonder if they have done enough to prepare their child for Kindergarten. You can be assured that if your child is kindergarten age, they are ready. Here are some suggestions to support your child's unique pathway to Kindergarten.
Invite your child into conversation with you. Talk with your child early and often and listen closely for their response. Try not to ask and answer a question, or forget to listen to your child’s answer.

Read to your child. Reading is an important way to help children build language skills. It exposes them to new words and ways of using language. It also helps them learn general information about the world, which makes it easier for them to learn about new subjects once they get to school.
Give your child time to play. All children need free time to simply play. Giving your child time to play is not wasted time. It’s just the opposite as playing provides children with many developmental benefits. As play is such an important factor in development all GVSD new families receive the Welcome to  Kindergarten Bag which provides ideas and resources that encourage play-based early learning activities. 
Provide experiences away from you. Parent and child activities are wonderful but it is also important to include activities where parents are not involved. Providing these opportunities teaches your child how to take instructions from someone other than yourself, and helps them feel more comfortable with you being gone for a long period of time.

Encourage independence and self-care. Encouraging your child to be independent and learn how to care for themselves helps them master the ability to handle multiple tasks at school. This can include putting on a coat and shoes, following a routine, or cleaning up toys and games.
It is common for parents to have worries about how their child will manage in kindergarten. New experiences take practice. Reading books about Kindergarten, visiting the school grounds, watching the videos below with your child, and sharing a positive outlook towards starting school are all helpful for you and your child to prepare their next chapter.
A day in the life of a Kindergarten student in Greater Victoria School District.
Grade 4 and 5 students share their advice and insights about starting Kindergarten.
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Middle school is a time of incredible transformation and movement toward independence. With regard to its impact on human development, this period of life is second only to the period from birth to age three! Remember how much your child changed from birth to age three? That’s how much change, growth, and development will happen over these next three years as your child navigates middle school! 

Some researchers have shown that a positive transition into middle school is critical for success and believe the middle school transition year is the most significant period in a student’s K-12 education.
By taking the time to do some thoughtful planning and having some important discussions, parents can set the tone for positive growth in the middle school years. When students enter a new environment with some sense of what to expect, they are less likely to be overwhelmed. Following are some suggestions on preparing your child for middle school.
Participate in any parent/child orientations that the school may offer. 

Visit the new school. Help your child figure out the layout and find out how the school is organized. This can also be done using a map of the school. It will give your child a sense of where to find classes, the library, the gym, and the cafeteria. 

Browse the school website together for events, newsletters, clubs, activities, code of conduct and other aspects of school life.
Establish schedules. Prior to school starting get everyone used to going to bed and getting up earlier. It’s a huge adjustment for some families, but a tired child isn’t going to do well in school. Set up a healthy sleep routine from the start.

Get organized. If the school requires that your child have certain materials, make sure they have them before the first day of school. If obtaining such supplies is a financial strain contact the school office and they will ensure your child has what they need.
Set up a study corner. If you haven’t done this in the elementary years it’s doubly important to do this now. There will probably be more academic demands, with more  challenging homework. Work with your child to find a place for doing homework during the middle school years.
Your child’s values and your teaching about these issues may be challenged during the middle school years. Being clear about your own values and having calm discussions well ahead of time can help your child develop the strength to make good decisions. 
Talk with your child about their new peer group and about what‘s important in a friend. Explore what your child thinks makes a good friend. Ask open-ended questions like, “What do you think makes someone a good friend? Why?” Exploring what your child has to offer as a friend can also help. Ask them to consider what qualities they have that make them a good friend.
Talk with them about physical, social and emotional bullying. Talk about how to avoid getting caught up in participating with the bullies, what to do if they become bullied and about the importance of not being a bystander when others get hurt. Let them know to reach out to a trusted adult in their school if they witness or experience bullying. 
Talk with them about relationships. Talk about being respectful of self and of others, what it means to be in a healthy friendship/relationship, including what consent means.

Talk with them about substance use (vaping, alcohol, cannabis, prescription drugs, illicit drugs). Substance use is one way adolescents satisfy the normal developmental need to take risks and seek thrills. Regular "mini-conversations" about substance use are better than a one time conversation. 
Have two-way conversations with your child. Listen to them and respect their opinion. Provide them with information that is meaningful and balanced, without emotion or drama so that they feel empowered to make positive choices. If you’re not sure how to discuss these issues with your child, do some research together (some resources are provided at the end of the Snapshot).

Even with all of the new independence that middle school brings, your adolescent still needs you. In fact, they need a strong connection with you now more than ever.
Find some new, creative ways to ask how your child's day was. Encourage them to tell you fun stories from the day, not just the details about school work. 

Let your night time routine evolve, but not disappear. Ask how things are going with friends. Let them share their new favorite song with you. Carve out time to spend together. Walks, movie nights, watching your favorite show together—make one-on-one time a priority. 

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Transitioning from elementary school to middle school is a huge step of independence for your child. Not sure what to expect? Planning and having open conversation with your child will help smooth the transition in middle school. (Although this video is targeted towards mothers, the information is applicable to all parents and caregivers).
Class placement decisions take into account your child‘s needs in all areas, including social-emotional and academic, staffing allocations, and contractual requirements. Our team of educators works very hard to make the best decisions regarding the placement for your child.

 Having friends in class is important, but friends are not always the best classmates and students need to develop their skills to work with a variety of peers.
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We recognize that the beginning of the school year can be a challenging time. However, in almost all cases, students adapt to their new classes within a few weeks. We also know that children take their cues from the important adults in their lives. For this reason, we ask that you remain supportive of our school staff and your child‘s teacher and trust that your child was placed with the best intentions in mind.

No Shortage of Questions: Helping Kids Cope with Big Life Changes

Changes and transitions are part of life. We know this as parents and caregivers. However, we don't always know how to support our kids through these big life events - such as starting a new school, moving, the arrival of a new sibling, or loss of a loved one. In this minisode, hosts Bryn and Char discuss this topic with Dr. Ashley Miller, child psychiatrist and family therapist. Questions include:
  • What is it about transitions and big life changes that can be hard for kids?
  • What effects can major life changes have on my child's mental health?
  • What are some strategies I can share with my child to help them cope during transitions and big life events?


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