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Helping your child when they start or change primary school

Helping your child when they start or change primary school  – advice from Place2Be

– Understand what’s going on when your child is facing change so you can help them to adjust.


Things you can try


Talk to your child about the change

Reassure them that having a mix of emotions is normal. Remind them of how well they coped with change, like when they first started nursery. Say ‘‘Remember when you started nursery. You felt anxious and had to be very brave when you went for the first time. But then you had a great time and made lots of friends’

  • Starting or changing schools is a big event in your child’s life, and yours.
  • Lots of parents notice changes in their children’s moods or behaviours.
  • Any kind of change can bring up strong feelings and uneasiness in us all.
  • Some children might be very unsettled and unable to talk about what’s going on for them.
  • If that’s the case, they might show their feelings though their behaviour. They might behave like they did when they were younger. For example, they might start to have tantrums again, or wetting themselves.
  • Help them to say goodbye to friends and teachers. Suggest they make a card for the staff and take photos of them with their friends.


Children respond in different ways to starting or changing schools

  • Some children are ready for change and starting ‘big school’ is exciting.
  • Your child might feel sad about leaving their old school or nursery.
  • They may worry about making new friends and coping with the work.
  • And worry about getting on with teachers and if they’ll be bullied.
  • Most children will feel a mixture of positive and negative things.
    1. Remind each other of things that will stay the same. For instance – assemblies, breaktimes, lessons they like and lessons they don’t like.
    2. Read books about starting school which you can find in a library or online.


Explain that starting a new school isn’t about the first day

You could say ‘it’s very normal for it to take a while to settle-in and to feel confident’.

  • You may share the same worries as your child. For instance, how they’ll settle, make friends and cope with learning. Or if teachers understand your child.
  • Your child will take their lead from you, so try to stay calm and reassure them it’ll be ok.

Your child may need a bit of extra attention and support as they adjust to the change.


Look after yourself too, starting school can take an emotional toll on parents

  • It’s natural for you to feel a mixture of emotions too.
  • It can bring up memories of your time at school, particularly it that was difficult.
  • It can be hard to keep calm and not to worry about our children.
  • Hook up with other parents. You are all in the same boat and others will be feeling just the same as you.

Your child is unique and we hope there are some takeaways here that work for you. If you’re looking for help parenting children with additional needs, you can get specific advice from specialist organisations. Check out our list of support that we can recommend.


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