Starting a new school or new school year can be stressful for some children. Change and unpredictability can lead to the emergence of survival responses. It is therefore important that you work closely with your child’s school to develop ways of supporting your individual child to help them feel safe.

Whatever this transition - whether they are going to school for the first time, moving to a new class with an unfamiliar teacher or moving to secondary school - change can create strong emotional feelings for children. They can feel powerless, scared and anxious, all of which can lead to regression or escalation in behaviour.

Here are a few practical suggestions for you to consider:

  • ask the school to allocate a key person who will become a familiar supportive figure and maintain continuity
  • create opportunities for your child to visit the new classroom/teacher as often as possible
  • use visual timetables so your child starts to learn what to expect
  • practice the new journey and try on the new uniform
  • create a photo book of key areas such as classrooms, toilets and hall/canteen
  • use transitional objects to keep a connection with you and home
  • find out what topics your child will be covering and start planning for them
  • try to go into the school for lessons and lunchtime
  • ask the previous teacher to ‘check-in’ with your child at the start of the new term to avoid further losses for your child
  • acknowledge the strong feeling your child is having and reassure them it is your job to help them

Most importantly keep in mind that children are unique and some children may need more help in preparing for the change than others. This is OK.

Remember too that our adoption support team is always available to give more specific advice to our adopters.

Smiling school boy

There are lots of good story books available to help your child prepare for school. Here are just a few:

Allan & Janet Ahlberg, Starting School. In typical Alhberg style, there is a lot to talk about as we are shown school from day one to the end of term

Catherine & Laurence Anholt, Billy and the Big New School. In this picture book Billy is not sure about starting school; thinking about it is making him feel ‘funny inside’. He soon finds out how much fun it can be!

Lauren Child, I Am Too Absolutely Small for School. A delightful book to prepare a child for school – it's funny and very reassuring.

Eric Hill, Spot Goes to School. A classic, featuring the popular dog.

Laurene Krasny Brown & Marc Tolon Brown, How to Be a Friend..This cartoon character book is a guide to making friends.

Martin Waddell, Owl Babies. A story about separation and mum’s return 

Rebecca Hunter & Chris Fairclough, My First Day at School. Photos of Roshaurn's first day at infants' school. Brief notes for parents and teachers are included.

Vic Parker, Who Helps Us at School?.  Photos, speech bubbles and captions help children familiarise themselves with a school community.

smiling school teacher

Adoption Support

Patrick & Janet's Story part VIII - First holiday & School