First day of school

The first day of school – life transitions…

Yesterday my daughter had her first day of secondary school.

Like many other parents I marked the event by photographing her in her new school uniform (in the same place that I photographed her brother two years ago).

And of course I couldn’t help thinking back to her first day at primary school and my own first day at secondary school (there’s a picture somewhere!!) and wondering where the time had gone..!

The move to secondary school is a major life change or transition

(although a change might occur on a particular calendar date, transition is a psychological process that takes time).

“It isn’t the changes that do you in, it’s the transitions” William Bridges

While we might focus now on – and in the future remember – the first day of a new school, changing from primary to secondary school has three distinct stages:

1. My daughter left primary school in July (where she’d been for 7 years).
Like children up and down the country, she had multiple leaving events at school and left school with mementos of her time there (photographs, a video, a gift of a book, her T-shirt covered in messages from her friends and teachers…)

last day of school

Leaving primary school

2. She then entered the summer holiday period having left her old school but not yet started at her new school.

Suddenly the question

“What school do you go to?”

becomes tricky to answer succinctly!

3. Yesterday marked the beginning of her time at her new school.

She went in equipped with new uniform, bag, pencil case etc and she will now start to get used to new routines.


Managing life’s transitions

These three stages remind me of the three stages of Bridges’ transitions model (endings, the neutral zone, new beginnings) and make me wonder…

…do we put the same effort into our transitions when we change job, move home, get married, have children..?

If we are part of, or lead, a team – how are we managing the transitions through changes at work?

[For more on transitions see books by William Bridges e.g. ‘Transitions – making sense of life’s changes. Strategies for coping with the difficult, painful, and confusing times in your life.’]

How do you deal with transition? What are your strategies for coping with change?

And what do you remember about your first day of school??

Let me know your thoughts by adding your comments below…

To find out how I can help you make the most of change, please get in touch via the contact form or call me on +44 7526 740486.

Best wishes!


12 replies
  1. Jen Pavich
    Jen Pavich says:

    Such a big moment, not only for your daughter but for you as well! I think that marking transitions is hugely important, even if only from a symbolic/ceremonial perspective. I think we do this for some things (marriage, graduation, retirement) but not others and I think, in Western culture, we avoid the transitions that seem more uncertain. When my daughter was a preteen, several of my friends and I held a coming of age ceremony for her. I did something similar when she graduated college and moved away recently. Both times were very powerful and I’m so glad we marked them.

  2. Eileen Burns
    Eileen Burns says:

    Nice blog Sian, my sister’s children have just moved home and had to move school’s all quite young and struggling with the transition on some days. I think transitions is definitely partly about the ability of letting go, not always easy though

    • Sian Rowsell
      Sian Rowsell says:

      Thanks Eileen! Managing what’s ending/what you’re losing is so important. It’s good to identify, acknowledge and articulate what we will miss/are missing – and what we won’t miss(!) Wishing your sister’s children all the best with their life transition! Sian

  3. Sara
    Sara says:

    I’ll have to pick up Bridges’ book, thanks for the referral! My son is terrified of change and transitions, so a new year, new grade, etc is always very challenging for us to move through.

  4. Rebecca Ronane
    Rebecca Ronane says:

    As a child I moved school many times due to my parents moving, then they divorced, I can’t say i was well-prepared for any of these transistions, however as an adult I’ve thrived on change & challenge. I guessed it shaped me for my future.I love the idea of change ceremonies to create a positive attitude for one’s future


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