Cincinnati Family Magazine

Your # 1 Hometown Family Resource

June 21, 2024

School Transitions

Managing School Transitions from K – College

In our 'Big Book of Schools,' how to navigate kids through changes with positivity.

School transitions are tough on kids and parents. Here’s what you need to know to help your child successfully navigate school milestones — and what to watch for each step of the way.


This year, your child will begin to develop a sense of independence and self-confidence. To ensure long-term academic success, foster resilience and a growth mindset.
    “Allow them to make mistakes, to keep trying and reward the effort not the action,” says Tara Walrod, a school counselor.
    For example, instead of telling your child how smart they are, you might say: “You worked so hard and did it by yourself!” 

Tips for success 

— Let your child practice buckling and unbuckling their seatbelt

— Have your child practice independently taking her jacket on and off

— Practice removing a backpack & unzipping it, too 

— Help your child recognize their name in writing

— Continue reading daily with your child

— Attend school orientation events like kindergarten round-up and sneak-a-peeks

— Foster fair play, winning and losing grace fully, and flexibility (like using colors that aren’t their first choice)

— By the second week of school, let your child walk into the school building on their own

— Encourage eating school lunch the first week to help them learn the ropes

— Each evening: Ask your child questions about his day. Ask, “What did you talk about during sharing time today?” and “Who did you eat lunch with?” 

— If you sense your child seems unhappy, check in with the teacher.

— Be sure your child has plenty of preschool prep


Middle school can be challenging as kids adjust to multiple teachers, a larger school environment … and hormonal changes, too. For the most part, Dr. Jim McMullen —  a former middle school principal — says kids often manage the transition better than their parents expect. They go best especially when families take advantage of orientations to reduce apprehension.
    “Be there to support them and process with them at night and give advice. Kids pretty quickly become acclimated with the school and do really well,” McMullen says. 

Tips for success:

— Go over a map of the school 

— Practice unlocking locker combinations prior to school starting

— If your child will ride the bus, go over the schedule, rules and expectations 

— Encourage involvement in clubs and activities from arts to sports

— Prioritize reading and academics

— Check in daily with questions like: “Who is your favorite teacher?” “What are you working on in math?” “ What are the top three things you enjoyed at school today?”

— “What was one thing you didn’t enjoy?”

What to watch for: Tune into your child’s social media use. 

“Parents have to know what their child is looking at and posting — and not gaining self-esteem from ‘Likes,’ but instead from moments at school,” Walrod says. 


As your child enters high school, they’ll begin to face more pressures related to time management, academics, extracurriculars and their social life. An active school life and a healthy support system is critical to your high schooler’s well-being.
    “Through high school, kids should love going to school, whether their connection is with their friends, teachers, athletic team, band or theater,” McMullen says. “Kids who are engaged do really well academically and socially.”

Tips for success:

— Attend tours, orientations and school events; engage with other parents

— Get involved at the school

— Prioritize reading and academics

— Encourage your teen to get involved by following their interests

— What to watch for: “We know that high school is a super stressful time for kids, so make sure they have strategies in place to calm anxieties and stress,” Walrod says.

— Begin researching higher education options between your child’s sophomore and junior year of high school 

Continue nurturing your relationship with your teen through conversation. Model and encourage stress management skills like deep breathing exercises. In addition, teach your kids to take quiet breaks and to disengage from social media from time to time.


Plan visits to colleges or technical schools either the summer before the junior year of high school or during the junior year.
    “These visits are your first opportunity to get to know the school and see if it might be a good fit, and this will help narrow down the options,” says Alice Arredondo, Ed.D., director of admissions, University of Missouri Kansas City.
    The transition into college life can take about a year, as your student learns to live independently while managing their time between school work, their social life and other interests. 

Tips for success:

— During their senior year of high school, in exchange for responsible decision-making, remove their curfew

— Let them live independently at home

— Discuss how to manage money and the pros and cons of credit cards, which is one of the first ways college freshmen get into financial trouble

— Remind your child their family is available whenever they need support or feel overwhelmed

— Create expectations about how often you will touch base with each other

— Foster a sense of openness to all types of conversations, no matter how difficult 

— Check in with your child every few days

— Text supportive messages 

— Understand that they may not return your call right away

— What to watch for: “If you notice that your child isn’t responding to any messages, seems depressed or anxious when you call, experiences significant weight changes or seems overly stressed,  take the
time to see them in-person to better assess the situation,” Arredondo says. “A small dose of these
things may be normal during the college transition, but excessive deviations from who you know your child to be should be concerning.”

   If your student hasn’t signed a Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) waiver, you won’t be able to access his grades or finances. In addition, you can ask academic advisers or campus health offices to check on your young adult, but they won’t be able to provide information back without a waiver.
    “This is why it’s important to establish an open line of communication with your child before they leave for college,” Arredondo says.



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