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Managing School Transitions for Children and Teens

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Whether it is preparing your child for their first day at Preschool, Primary school or getting ready for their new phase of life in Secondary school, it can feel nerve-wracking for your child and the rest of the family. What can we expect in a transition and how do we prepare our children for their new phase of life?

What to expect in school transitions (Ministry of Education, 2021)

  1. New environment and physical space

Get yourself and your child familiarised with the new environment by browsing the school on google maps, paying a visit to the school surroundings, and practising the new route they will be taking to school.

  1. New relationships with peers and teachers

Your child will make new friends and meet new teachers. Ask your child about them – let them share as much as they are comfortable to. Getting to know their friends and welcoming them to your home at some point, are opportunities for you to guide them on building positive friendships. If your child is young, you may want to connect with their teacher-in-charge to learn how your child is doing in school.

  1. New daily routine and timetable

Coming up with a manageable weekly timetable with your child, including mealtimes, homework, family time, play time and rest time, is essential.  Help them to follow a planned routine as this creates structure and predictability for our children – essential to learning how to be self-organised and observing boundaries.

  1. New school rules and school expectations

Go through the new rules and academic expectations with your child and clarify any questions they may have. Help them to appreciate the challenges of new school subjects. Look through the Co-curricular Activities (CCA) catalogue together for clubs and activities that may interest them and help them to consider the pros and cons of their options and decisions. By seizing such teachable moments, you are helping them to think critically before making decisions.

Key to Successful Adaptation: Building Resilience

Research has shown that resilience is one key factor to a successful school transition for children and teens. How can we encourage emotional resilience in our children and provide positive support?

Build up your child’s resilience using “I AM”, “I HAVE”, and “I CAN”. A positive sense of self helps your child to deal effectively with challenges. A resilient child is aware of and uses the intrapersonal and interpersonal resources available to problem-solve. Resilience helps children and teens to explore the world and navigate challenges effectively. Using “I AM”, “I HAVE”, and “I CAN”, identify with your children:

  1. Your child’s inner strengths – “I AM”. g., “I AM creative/kind/responsible”.

  2. The support available for your child – “I HAVE”. g., “I HAVE mommy/ daddy/ siblings/ teacher/ grandparents to talk to when I face difficulties”.

  3. Your child’s capabilities and skills – “I CAN”. g., “I CAN get ready for school/pack my school bag/play well with my friends.”.

Taking care of yourself and your child

New expectations and demands can be physically and emotionally draining for parents and children during transitions in life. Like adults, children and teens can get stressed when transitioning to a new phase of life.

Some children may even behave differently (for example, throw more tantrums or withdraw themselves) as a response. Therefore, parents also need to spend fun and meaningful time relaxing with their children as they take on the new transition together.

Written by: Abigail Lee, Intern, Fei Yue Community Services

For further exploration:

Video on common struggles students face when transitioning from Primary to Secondary school: Moving Up! The transition to secondary school

Tips from MOE on parenting: https://www.moe.gov.sg/parentkit

Transitioning at different school stages: https://www.miracle-recreation.com/blog/helping-children-transition-easily-into-a-new-school-environment/?lang=can

Self-care is crucial for the whole family’s health: https://parentingnow.org/self-care-is-crucial-for-the-whole-familys-health/


Cook, D. (2018). Back to School [Photograph]. Unsplash, Australia. https://unsplash.com/photos/zzjLGF_6dx4

Fabian, H., & Dunlop, A. (2007). Outcomes of good practice in transition processes for children entering primary school. The Hague, Netherlands: Bernard Van Leer Foundation. .

Kiswarday, V. (2012). Empowering resilience within the school context. Metodički Obzori/Methodological Horizons, 7(1), 93–103. https://doi.org/10.32728/mo.07.1.2012.07

Ministry of Education. (2021, June 5). Transition from preschool to primary school. Ministry of Education. Retrieved December 7, 2021, from https://www.moe.gov.sg/primary/p1-registration/transition-to-primary.

Ministry of Education. (2021, October 18). Transition to secondary school. Ministry of Education Singapore. Retrieved December 7, 2021, from https://www.moe.gov.sg/secondary/transition-to-secondary.

Tay-Lim, J., & Lim, L. (2015). Early Years transitions: Building bridges for children. Association for Early Childhood Educators.