ASK THE EXPERTS

How Can I Help My Fifth-Grader Make a Smooth Transition?

By Debra Collins, Family therapist

Question:

We are moving to a new city in the fall due to my work, and I am concerned about the transition for my daughter. She has a solid group of friends here and she likes her school. Do you have any suggestions to make the transition easy on her?

Answer:

Your question shows that you understand that this will be difficult for her. Even though she may be upset with you for moving, your acknowledgment that this is a loss and that you want to ease the transition will be of comfort to her.

We can be more resilient when we are allowed to grieve first. Having a going-away party can help her honor her relationships with a formal good-bye. You can also make arrangements for how she can stay in touch. If she won't be graduating with her current class next year, you might want to plan for her to attend their graduation. She may not want to when the time comes, but for now it might be helpful for her to know that that is available.

You can guide her toward the future by getting more information. If she will be entering fifth grade at the new school, see if you can take her to tour the school before the school year ends. Meeting fourth-graders and the teachers now might be easier than meeting them in the fall. If she is starting middle school, many schools have sixth-grade orientation that you both can attend. Ask what extracurricular activities are available at the new school and in the community, and make contact with the coordinators so that your daughter knows what will be available.

It may be a wonderful time to try something new. Involvement in outside interests also expands her opportunities for a broader social network. A family discussion about what will be the same and different for each of you can foster compassion for each other and help everyone feel less isolated and in this adventure together.

Debra Collins is a licensed marriage and family therapist and has worked in both primary and middle schools as a school counselor. She gives workshops to teachers and students and offers parenting classes in the San Francisco Bay Area. To learn more, visit her website.

Advice from our experts is not a substitute for professional diagnosis or treatment from a health-care provider or learning expert familiar with your unique situation. We recommend consulting a qualified professional if you have concerns about your child's condition.