Learning from transitions

How to support children making school changes
Times of change can bring happiness and anxiety for some.. Photo: monkeybusinessimages

The end of the school year comes with many emotions for both kids and parents. There is excitement for summer and a break from schoolwork, but also there can be some stress and anxiousness about what’s ahead. This is especially true if you have a child transitioning to a new school, middle school, high school, or even college. Graduations are a wonderful time to celebrate change and new beginnings, but they can also be an emotional rollercoaster. As a parent, you may find yourself trying to instill all the last-minute advice you can, while reminiscing about how fast the time goes. But no matter the stage, don’t forget to tell your child these three things: 


It can be easy to get caught up in the business and stress of everyday life, and we may forget the most important and easiest thing to tell our children — that we love them. Research suggests that when kids feel loved they develop positive self-esteem and feel more safe and secure. This is important especially during big transitions. 

Besides simply saying “I love you,” there are other words we can express and many ways we can show our children they are loved. We can tell them we are proud of them, we can thank them, and we can tell them they did a great job. We can also make them feel loved by showing affection. For younger kids this could be a cuddle or a hug and kiss. Older children may want a high five, but don’t underestimate the power of a hug no matter what age. However you choose to show or tell them they are loved, just make sure to do it, and do it often. 


A few years ago, musician John Legend gave a graduation speech at the University of Pennsylvania, and he said, “You can’t be happy with yourself if you’re not even being yourself.” Heading off to a new school can be scary, and sometimes our kids think they need to be or act a certain way to fit in. I often tell my children that people are going to want to be around you if you are comfortable with who you are and like yourself. However your children define themselves ultimately, we just want to make sure they are happy and kind. Sounds simple, right? Technology and social media have added a whole other layer to this important lesson for our kids: Don’t pretend to be something you aren’t, don’t pretend life is always a perfect Instagram post, and use these platforms for good.


Whether you are watching your oldest head off to college or your youngest venture to kindergarten, remind your kids you will always be there for them. They will make mistakes, do dumb things, maybe even get in a little trouble (with any luck, not too much), but this is part of growing up. Remind them that no matter what happens, you will always love them and be there for them. This foundation will help keep them grounded and can be very centering when so much else around them is new. 

It is our job to prepare them, to give them their wings, and then watch them fly. If they stumble — and they will — let them know they can always come to you for help. With each new beginning they will grow and change. As parents there is no better gift than to watch your child blossom into a smart, kind, and independent person. 

With every milestone our children have conquered, we as parents have had to make changes. When they learned to walk, started school, and learned to drive, we had to make changes in how we parented. These are exciting times and although they will face challenges, try to listen more and lecture less. And tell them often they are loved. 

Liz Farrell is the mother of three children and the founder of TechTalks, a consulting group to help schools and families have productive conversations around social media and technology. Email: [email protected]

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