10 Steps for Creating a Smooth Transition to High School

By Erica Patino, MA
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Being in high school is a big change for teens. They have more independence and a wider range of classes and activities to choose from. But they also face more pressure to get good grades and to start thinking about the future.

You can’t take away all of the stresses that come with starting high school—whether your child will be a freshman or is switching to a new school. But there are steps you can take ahead of time to make the transition go more smoothly.

Meet with the school.

The spring or summer before your child starts high school, schedule a meeting with the staff to discuss his learning and thinking differences. Encourage him to attend.

Discuss class selection.

Meet with the guidance department to get advice on choosing the best mix of classes for your child. They may be able to suggest certain teachers who have experience with his learning and thinking differences.

Explore extracurricular activities.

Talk with your teen about which school groups and activities he might like to try. Joining up can help him meet kids who share his interests.

Brush up on social skills.

Remind your child about the importance of following social rules. That includes thinking before he speaks and not interrupting. If those are weak spots for him, there are ways you can help at home. You can also consider enrolling him in a summer social skills class.

Go to the orientation and tour the campus.

Get a map of the school and bring a copy of your child’s schedule. Help him find all of his classrooms now, before school starts.

Review the student handbook.

Go over the rules for student conduct with your child. If his learning or thinking differences might cause a problem with them, talk to school staff about it before the start of school.

Meet with teachers early.

Ask to meet with your child’s teachers a few weeks after he starts. Talk about his strengths and the areas where he may need help. Waiting until after the first marking period can hurt both his grades and his self-esteem if things aren’t going well.

Encourage self-advocacy.

Suggest to your child that he reach out for help on his own. That might include asking teachers for informal accommodations or talking about his IEP plan, if he has one. Be supportive of his efforts, but stay involved to make sure he gets what he needs.

Provide summer structure.

Suggest summer activities that involve a schedule and responsibilities, such as band camp, sports teams or volunteer work.

Support summer reading.

Encourage your child to read over the summer. It doesn’t matter what it is—books, magazines online content. Reading anything during the long break can make his transition back to the classroom easier. It also can keep him from losing skills he’s already learned.

As the school year gets underway, continue to talk to your child about how school is going. It’s normal for kids to feel a bit overwhelmed during the first few weeks. Understanding the stress teens feel in high school and the learning challenges they face can also help you prevent problems.

About the Author

About the Author

Erica Patino, MA 

is an online writer and editor who specializes in health and wellness content.

Reviewed by

Reviewed by

Jenn Osen-Foss, MAT 

is an instructional coach, supporting teachers in using differentiated instruction, interventions, and co-planning.

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