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Changing Schools: How to Help Kids With the Transition


Discover ways to support your child through the anxiety and excitement of changing schools. Learn how to navigate conversations and encourage resilience.

School is a source of stability for children, and it’s an essential part of their academic and social education. So it’s understandable why changing schools is a big deal for students.  

There could be many reasons why children need to change schools. Maybe they’re moving from one school building to another, or they’re moving to a new town. Whatever the case may be, changing schools can carry stress and uncertainty with it. 

This article will discuss ways you can help your child navigate this big life change and give them the emotional tools they need to thrive at their new school.  

Starting the Conversation Early

Children often need more time to adjust to changes. As caregivers, it’s important to understand what your kid is feeling and to help them become more comfortable with their own emotions. Knowing how to talk to kids is the first step. 

Start by practicing good communication skills. Some things to keep in mind are1:

  • Active vs. reflective listening – Use a combination of active and reflective listening to show your child you understand them. What is reflective listening? Make eye contact, nod your head, and ask clarifying questions without judging them.
  • Finding the right words – Sometimes children don’t have the language they need to express their feelings. Try to notice their non-verbal cues and offer them suggestions for possible feeling words. You can say, “When a big change like this happens, we might feel lots of different things, sometimes all at once. All your feelings are welcome and I am here to help you.”
  • Using verbal praise, not pleading – Pleading or pressuring children to share their feelings only works in the short run. Instead, use affirmations and “I noticed” statements when they communicate effectively. Words of encouragement for kids will help them navigate this transition better.
  • Being patient – Just like with adults, kids may not know what or how to feel at the same moment you tell them about the change. They likely will have waves of feelings come up over time and need parental support to process. Some feelings likely won't hit until after the change happens for kids.

Once you open up a dialogue with your child about switching schools, it’ll be easier to keep the idea of a school transfer open in the future. 

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Visiting the New School Together

One way to help your child get used to their new school is to visit it together before their first day. Having a trusted person with them can relieve some of the pressure of visiting a new place and adjusting to a different school. When they visit the new school, it can be very important to make connections with teachers, staff members, or even students (if possible). This can help them feel supported and prepared on their first day.

Not only will they be able to visualize the space better, but they’ll be able to visualize themselves in it while you talk to them about what will change, and what will remain the same. 

Involvement in the Decision Process

While it’s likely not possible for your child to have a say in every decision when changing schools, you can find ways to get them involved. They might not be able to choose what school they go to, but they might be able to:

  • Pick out their new school supplies
  • Choose what to wear on their first day
  • Choose their extracurricular activities

Decision-making is an important step in a child’s development process,2 so why not let them practice doing it to feel comfortable with their new school? 

Tips to Help Kids While Moving Schools

If you’re the caregiver of a child switching schools, or you know a child changing schools in your life, you can take part in helping them feel confident and excited about this big change. Here are a few tips for a successful school transfer. 

Maintaining Old Connections

A big part of the stress that comes with a new school is worrying about losing friends. To show your child that they can stay connected, try to:

  • Set up playdates (virtual or in-person, if possible)
  • Start up a pen-pal communication
  • Plan visits that they can look forward to
  • Enroll them in an extracurricular activity they can do together

Maintaining old connections will keep your child’s support system strong and offer them comfort as they go through the transfer process.

Cultivating Courage and Resilience 

Sometimes, glimmers of emotional courage and resilience can come from riveting stories—whether they’re ones about you or their favorite fictional hero. Try incorporating inspiring stories into your bedtime routine during the weeks leading up to their first day at the new school. 

Along the way, when your child is being brave, celebrate it! Showing bravery is more than not being sad or scared. Being brave means facing challenges and facing all of our feelings. If you notice them organizing their school supplies in their backpack, or talking to kids at the bus stop, for example, tell them you see how brave they’re being. 

Role-Playing Scenarios

For some kids, feeling prepared equates to feeling confident. Try playing out some possible scenarios your child might encounter on their first day, like:

  • Saying “hi” to their teacher and classmates
  • Answering questions in class
  • Asking a classmate to play at recess, modeled in our Social Play Kinspiration Kit

Memorizing some common phrases and questions can ease anxiety surrounding new situations for kids. 

Continuing Support After the Move

Once your child is acquainted with their new school, it’s important to stay observant and involved to help them adjust and thrive. Here are some strategies to help: 

  • Monitoring and check-ins – Ask them about their day, and remember to practice active and reflective listening while they tell you about it. Look out for signs of unresolved stress or tension related to the move, and if you spot it, create a safe space for them to tell you without judgment. 
  • Engaging with the school community – Being involved in your child’s school can show them that they’re not alone there and help them expand their social circle. Kids can join clubs or extracurricular activities like sports, theater, or art club. Or, caregivers can join in on bake sales, field trips, or career day throughout the school year.

Help Your Children Take Courageous Steps Forward

Whether it’s the first step into a brand-new school or other big transitions they’ll inevitably encounter, you can teach your child how to walk courageously into new and different things. With open communication, active listening, regular involvement, and a little bit of practice, you and your child can thrive together during times of change. 

At Slumberkins, we make it our mission to provide engaging and effective emotional growth mindset resources for children and caregivers. 

If your child is about to change schools or go through a big change, introduce them to our friend Fox—an expert in supporting your child through transitional times. Explore Kins, books, and more that’ll have them climbing the school bus steps with bravery and excitement. 


Sources: 

  1. "How to Communicate Effectively with Your Young Child." UNICEF.  https://www.unicef.org/parenting/child-care/9-tips-for-better-communication 
  2. Betsch, Tilmann. "What Children Can and Cannot Do in Decision Making." Scientia. 28 September, 2018. https://www.scientia.global/dr-tilmann-betsch-what-children-can-and-cannot-do-in-decision-making/ 

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