Change and School Transitions
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Navigating Change   School Transitions
May 2022

Change is a natural, expected part of life. But that doesn’t mean it’s easy. While some people thrive on change, most experience some level of discomfort around transitions. And some people really struggle when adjusting to a new situation. For teens, change can be particularly difficult. 

Perhaps one of the biggest challenges of teen transitions is that they’re taking place against a backdrop of change. Their bodies are changing, their social hierarchies and norms are changing and even their relationship with their parents is changing. Although change can be hard, it is necessary for growth. Below are some tips to help your teen cope with change in a healthy way.

 Tips to Help Teens with Change
Validate your teen’s feelings. Adults can sometimes be dismissive of teen's reactions to problems, because they don’t seem like such a big deal to us. But try not to brush off your child's moods, as it’s important that they learn how to process these emotions. They need to feel that you understand them, and  what they are going through, and how they feel about it is valid. Encourage them to talk about what’s going on, and avoid encouraging them to ‘get over it’. 
Listen. One of the most helpful things you can do for your adolescent is to listen to their stories, hear their concerns and empathize with their feelings — without judgment.

Preserve routines. As much as possible, try to keep the same morning and evening routines in place. Routines lend familiarity which can be threatened during times of transition.
Ensure self-care for both you and your teen. Nutritious meals, quality sleep, exercise and stress management allow you to stay strong, especially during trying times. A lot of teens begin to skip breakfast and push the limits on bedtime; while respecting the changes in their needs and wants, maintain a focus on healthy habits.
Maintain boundaries. It’s tempting to loosen the discipline when your child is going through a hard time, but rules and boundaries build trust. Kids know what they can count on, and what they can push against. Be consistent in your parenting, allowing natural consequences and imposing logical consequences when their behavior crosses the line.
Stay realistically positive. Remind your teen of past accomplishments. You might remind them about the time that they were really anxious about their performance in a school play that went really well, or about a new friend they made on their first day of camp. By doing so, you’re giving your child tangible examples to counter their anxiety in facing this change.
Help them figure out what they can and can’t control. When something unexpected or unwanted happens, it’s easy to get stuck feeling sad, angry or out of control. A helpful way for your teen to cope is to figure out what they can and can’t control. This will help reassure them that they’re not powerless and give them something positive to focus on.
For example:

What we can’t control: losing a loved one; natural disasters; pandemics; how someone has treated us; having a bad day.
What we can control: how we treat other people; what activities we do the next day; what goals we have; who we spend time with; how hard we try to do the best we can.
Ask for help. If you feel like things are getting out of control, or you see that your teen is so anxious that they’re not sleeping or if you’re worried about drug and alcohol use, reach out to a professional, who can help guide your teen—and you—through a challenging transition.
Avoid projecting your worries. As a caring parent you want your child to avoid discomfort—and to succeed. But your concerns about any given transition may not be theirs. Even if you’re worried about your teen making new friends, they might not be the least bit concerned—unless you plant seeds of doubt by asking anxiety-provoking questions such as “Are you nervous about making new friends?”   
 School Transitions
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Many teen transitions center around school: returning to school after summer break, advancing to a new grade level, starting in a new school after a geographic move, or beginning middle school or high school.
If your child is moving up to high school they might be worried about:
- Social life (Will I have friends to eat lunch with?)
- Logistics (Will I be able to find my way to class? How will I open my locker?)
- Academics (Will I be able to keep up with my homework?)
Chances are these concerns are on their minds, whether they’re talking about them or not.
While your teen may assure you they don't  need your help, parental involvement is an important factor in ensuring a successful transition from middle to high school.

Below are some tips to support your teen's move up to high school. 
 ABC's of School Transition
Accompany your child on any school orientations offered to parents and teens together. The better you understand the school layout and rules, the more you can help your child.

Avoid warnings. Your teen may be stressed about getting good grades, so reminding them of the challenges of high school could be counter productive. The use of positive language such as, "I know you're going to be able to handle this” supports competence and growth mind-set in your teen.
Assure your teen that you have confidence in them. The transition to high school is a major transition, it can be daunting to be at the bottom of the rung after being at the top of the heap in 8th grade. Honour their struggle and acknowledge their fears. Then remind them that they have successfully coped with change before and they have the skills they need. 
Advocate for involvement. High school isn't just full of new people and new classes, it's also full of new opportunities. Encourage your child to join a sport, club or activity.  It can help with making friends and ease the transition process. 
Alleviate worries by helping your teen plan for those situations that they fear. If it’s being alone at lunch time, ask your teen, “Can you pre-arrange with a friend to meet before lunch? How can you plan and be proactive and care for yourself.” 

Be proactive. The bulk of first-day jitters can often be chalked up to logistics such as adjusting to a new bus route, finding lockers or getting from one class to the next. These nerves can be mitigated by using a school map and helping your child find their classrooms and mapping out their school day. 

Boost your child's confidence by having their friends study the school map with them. That way they can help each other find classes, remember time tables etc.
Find out the length of the time between classes. Time it out for your child.  Demonstrate how far they can walk in that amount of time.

Browse the school’s website with your child. Search for announcements, schedules, events and other aspects of school life. 

Be organized: secondary school students are encouraged to use planners or electronic organization tools to record assignments, deadlines and test dates.
Class schedule: if it is available get a copy of your child’s class schedule and have them mark the location of their locker, classrooms and bathrooms.

Code of conduct: download a copy of the student handbook. Review rules and requirements — including the school’s code of conduct.  Ask the school staff questions about anything that’s unclear.
Campus map: Explore the outdoor campus together. Pick a time after school in the spring or in the days just before school starts in the fall. 

Continued communication with your child’s school is important. The school will use various means to communicate with you including  report cards, notes and the school website. If you have concerns about your child’s progress arrange a time to speak with their teacher. 
It can be hard to know what you don’t know—until you’re living through a new parenting experience. Adolescent transitions can be unnerving, but they also facilitate growth—not only for your teen, but also for your relationship with them.
May School Poster
Students transitioning to secondary school will benefit greatly from having a growth mindset. The primary way a growth mindset helps students is by leading them to tackle new challenges with the positive belief that they can achieve what they put their minds to. These students typically seek out, take on, and overcome difficult challenges. They are more open to valuable feedback, which can be very advantageous both in an academic and professional world. 

In contrast, those with a fixed mindset may shy away from those complex tasks and challenges for fear of being incapable or not living up to the intellect required to excel.

This poster demonstrates the difference in thinking between a fixed mindset and a growth mindset. 
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