How Can Families Engage in the Transition Process

There are things that you can do if you choose to engage in the transition process and in a partnership with a child’s family or their early childhood program-that can help minimize the stress the child will experience during a transition.

When you minimize stress, you increase the likelihood that the child will not experience a disruption in learning when he/she moves into a new program or school.

(stress arrow down, learning arrow up)

We will identify four things families (in partnerships with teachers) can do to become engaged in the transition process.

This information is based on the family transition outcomes identified by the National Early Childhood Transition Center (NECTEC)

1. Gain Knowledge

Become informed consumer armed with appropriate knowledge.
You need to become an informed consumer armed with the KNOWLEDGE you need to know in order to successfully guide a child through the transition process.

  • Transition process and procedures?
  • Expectations?
  • Transition strategies?
  • Available programs and/or service options?
  • Legal rights?

Kentucky has developed two different transition guides to help you become an informed consumer:

The STEP by STEP Transition Guide is for families whose children will transition from the First Steps program (Kentucky’s early intervention program for children birth to three) into Kentucky’s preschool program:

The Primary Style Transition Guide will help all families learn what to expect when their children transition into Kentucky’s primary school system:

These guides are a great resource that can be used by both families and teachers to help facilitate transitions.

2. Facilitate development

Help child develop knowledge and skills needed in the next environment.

  • When families think about what their child needs to know and do, they typically think in terms of academic concepts such as knowing the alphabet, counting, colors and shapes.
  • Families are less likely to consider the impact that other areas of development such as social-emotional development has on school success
  • Research is making it clear that children’s social-emotional skills have as much or more impact on school success as does the academic knowledge a child has when entering school.

(Add link to handout containing Problems Adjusting to Kindergarten)

If a family knows what is expected of a child, daily routines and family activities can be used to help the child develop skills such as following directions, taking turns, listening while others are talking, sitting quietly in a group (for a short period of time), using toys appropriately, etc.

To help families and early childhood professionals know what young children should know and be able to do that will lead to success in school, Kentucky has developed a set of early childhood standards and two Standards Parent Guides.

Kentucky Early Childhood Standards

Parent Guide for Children Birth to Three 

Parent Guide for Children Three to Four

add pictures of the fronts of the two guides

Both of the parent guides identify ways that you can help a child gain the knowledge and skills that will prepare the child to succeed in school.

The pages on the left side of the Parent Guides identify the knowledge and skills children are developing in different areas.  The pages on the right side identify things families can do to support development in each of these areas.

The Kentucky Early Childhood Transition Project (KECTP) developed 2 videos for families that explain the information in the Standards Parent Guides.  These videos can be downloaded from (are videos still available?, link in training guide does not work)

Page 11 of the Primary Style Transition Guide includes a list of skills that will ease a child’s entry into school.

3.  Participate during the transition process

Become an active partner
  • Share your unique knowledge of the  child
  • Work with the family or teacher/program to implement strategies that will prepare the child for transition and help the child adjust to the new program

Page 24 int the Step by Step Transition Guide and page 20 in the Primary Style Transition Guide are forms that families can use to share information about their child.

The child’s family and the teacher/program the child will transition to can develop a plan for implementing strategies that will prepare the child for the transition and help the child to adjust to the new program.

These are some examples of ways to help a child transition:

The family can visit the new program before he/she actually moves into the program.


The family might check out some books from the library to read to the child about going to Kindergarten.

Advocate for what is best for the child

For a child transitioning from First Steps into a preschool program, laws mandate that these programs initiate a transition planning proce3ss.

Families will need to be a part of that planning process so that you can help make decisions about where your child is placed and what services he/she will receive.

If a family doesn’t participate in the transition planning process, then they cannot advocate for what is best for the child (as opposed to what is most convenient for the new program/school)

By having a family involved in a child’s transition, it helps to build good relationships and support teaching by active involvement and fosters good communication between home and program.  This leads to more opportunities for participation, expanded knowledge and opportunities for input into decisions.   For example, you may make those decisions during an IEP (Individual Education Program) meeting, or make decisions about how families want to be involved in the day to day program, or serve on the Policy Council or Family Board.

4.  Believe

A family needs to BELIEVE (and be confident in this belief) that they have the right to be engaged in their child’s transition.  Because if they don’t believe they have the right, they are not likely to engage in the transition process.

A family needs to BELIEVE that they have the ability to do whatever is necessary to ensure the child’s transition is successful so that his/her learning is NOT interrupted.  And if the family doesn’t believe that they have this ability, then something needs to be done to develop the skills/knowledge they need to be that child’s “knight in shining armor.”

  • Research shows parental sense of self-efficacy (belief in their own capability to do what is needed) is associated with greater school-related parent involvement and improved academic outcomes for children (What Works Clearinghouse, 2008; cited in Rosenkoetter, Schroeder, Rous, Hains, Shaw, & McCormick, 2009)

5.  Allow enough time

It takes time to gain the knowledge needed, build a partnering relationship, make transition decisions about placement and services, and prepare the child for the upcoming transition.

It is NEVER too early to start thinking about transition.


  • Family Engagement is more powerful than family involvement.
  • Transitions involve change; change usually leads to stress; stress can interrupt learning.
  • Families that engage in the transition process have four roles and responsibilities
    • Gain knowledge
    • Facilitate child’s development of necessary knowledge and skills
    • Participate in the transition process
    • Believe in own abilities and rights

Your quiz for this module will be a Scavenger Hunt through some of the resources that we have shared with you.  This will help you find answers to some of your many questions that you might have as you assist a child to transition from one setting to another.

Insert quiz questions from Scavenger Hunt.