With the new school year just around the corner, now is a great time to discuss how children can best transition from one school to another. After all, kindergarten, grade school, middle school, high school and college are distinctly different social and academic stages that mark a youth’s progression from childhood to maturity. And the transition between each requires a new and unique set of skills.
If your child will be going through a transition year, the following social skills may be useful to help smooth the change.
Kindergarten to First Grade
Starting in first grade, students are expected to work more collaboratively with others. You can help your children learn that when working with others they need to remember the following:
- Understand the task.
- Assign a job for each person.
- Talk in a calm voice when working.
- Keep working until you are finished.
Social Skill: Staying on Task
- Look at your task or assignment.
- Think about the steps needed to complete the task.
- Focus all of your attention on your task.
- Stop working on your task only with permission from the nearby adult who gave you the task.
- Ignore distractions from others.
Elementary School to Middle School
As children move to an environment with multiple classes and teachers, they may find it a little scary to ask for help from school staff whom they don’t know.
While you can’t anticipate every struggle, you can be proactive by teaching or reteaching the skill of asking for help.
One way to do so would be to have your children write down a question or concern on an index card and place it in a box or basket. After dinner, draw a card and help them problem-solve by discussing whom to ask for help and what they might say.
Social Skill: Asking for Help
- Look at the person.
- Ask the person whether he or she has the time to help you (now or later).
- Clearly describe the problem or what kind of help you need.
- Thank the person for helping you.
Middle School to High School
As middle school students prepare for high school, it is important that they are given the opportunity to learn and practice the appropriate way to disagree when faced with situations in which they need to advocate for themselves. To your help children hone this important skill, have them role-play various situations in which they need to disagree appropriately and/or advocate for themselves. After dinner is a great time to try out this skill.
Social Skill: Disagreeing Appropriately
- Look at the person.
- Use a pleasant voice.
- Say, “I understand how you feel.”
- Tell why you feel differently.
- Give a reason.
- Listen to the other person.
High School to College
Generalizing social skills is the ability to use a social skill successfully regardless of the environment or situation. For instance, young adults need to know how making an apology is important, whether you’re expressing regret to a roommate or a boss. They also need to know how to adapt that skill to each particular situation, according to different circumstances and relationships.
Now is the time to help students adapt these skills to a college or workplace environment. Being able to generalize will increase the likelihood that graduates will be successful as they move into the adult world.
As an exercise, you might have your college-bound child role-play one of the previously mentioned skills — perhaps Disagreeing Appropriately — but in a different context. You could, for instance, pretend to be a college instructor or a superior at work and have your child disagree with you on some matter. He or she will then understand how this skill can be useful in different situations.
School transitions are exciting because they mark one more rung on the ladder to adulthood. By practicing some simple but crucial social skills, your children can enter their new schools confident and ready to succeed.