Whether you’ve moved to a new area or your child is transitioning to middle or high school, starting a new school can be tough. Naturally, you want your child to succeed and make friends at his or her new school. Here are some tips on how to ease the transition.
Choose the New School as a Family
If you have the opportunity to choose from among a variety of school, do so as a family. You will probably start thinking about schools well ahead of a move and base your choice, in part, on the school district. If you involve your children all along the way, you will experience less resistance when it’s finally time to start school. No school is perfect, but remind your children of all the positives that led you to choose their new school.
Visit the School in Advance
You may choose to tour schools before you settle on a new home. If you’ve already moved, go ahead and tour the school again. Ask to meet your child’s teacher and see his or her actual classroom, if possible. Plan your route to school, especially if the child will be walking or biking there alone. If your child will take a bus, be sure he or she knows the bus stop and the number. For very young children, you might skip the bus on the first day and just drive.
Get to know your child’s teacher as early as you can, even if it’s not until the first day. Introduce your child and share any hesitations about the new school. Aha Parenting says, “Kids need to feel connected to an adult they think will keep them safe.”
Get Involved with Activities
Some extracurricular activities start before the school year does. These offer a chance for your children to start making friends without the pressures of the classroom. Sign them up for clubs or sports if you can, just not too many at once. You can look for parents’ activities for yourself, like helping plan the back-to-school carnival or similar event. Making new friends can make your own experience easier and you let your child know that you’re involved in his or her life.
Keep Traditions Alive
If your family already has certain back-to-school traditions, this is no time to forgo them. Familiarity eases change. If you normally take a first-day photo or prepare a special breakfast, do that again. This can also be a time to introduce new traditions that make kids feel safe and loved. For instance, give them a small token to keep in their pocket or write a note for their lunchbox to let them know they’re not alone.
Get Enough Sleep
A well rested child will be more emotionally and physically ready to face new challenges. Sleep can prove elusive if a child is already anxious about starting school. Ease into a bedtime routine well in advance of school starting and talk through any anxiety. On the first day or days of school, plan to allow plenty of time in the morning. You need to make sure there’s time to feel fully prepared and get a good breakfast. A child, especially a teen, may want ample time to perfect his or her outfit and grooming. Feeling rushed only adds to stress.
Let Everyone Share Their Concerns
Living in a new neighborhood can bring up stress and loneliness for anyone. For a child starting school, these feelings may soon ease among new friends. However, make sure you’re keeping in tune with what your child is experiencing. The non-profit parenting organization Pathways says to ask questions like “What are you most excited about for your first day of school? What are you worried about?” Keep the conversation going after school, too. Make time each afternoon or evening to truly listen to your child’s concerns or accomplishments.
One way to spark these conversations is to read books together about starting school. This website offers some suggestions for elementary school-aged kids.
Remember the “new school” phase is temporary. Eventually, you will all look back on this time and see how far you’ve come. You may even laugh at any missteps or unwarranted concerns. Change is hard, but together, you and your children can get through it.