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Whether your child will be going to a new school because you recently moved, they are moving up to middle or high school, or they just need a fresh start somewhere else, it can be very difficult and overwhelming for some children to adjust to an entirely different environment. Not only is the setting unknown, there are also new friends to be made, new subjects to learn and new teachers to get to know.
As the mother of a little boy who has transferred schools many times, I completely understand how difficult this transition can be for some kids. However, there are things you can do before the first day of school to alleviate some of your child's anxiety and stress over starting a new school. Read on to learn 7 tried and true tips to helping your child adjust to a new school -- and breathe easy.
#1: Check it Out
The last thing that you want to do is drop your child off or rush them off to the school bus on the first day without them having ever visited the school. I highly recommend that you take your child to the school well before the first day and spend the afternoon walking around and familiarizing them with the space. Sometimes a school can seem like a huge, scary building from the outside, however when you get inside and start to move around, it feels smaller and more controlled.
#2: Be Open
If your child’s school offers an open house or orientation, make sure that you and your child will be in attendance. Not only is this a great time to find out more about the school, it is a great opportunity for you and your child to get any questions that you have answered. Most importantly, this is a prime time to introduce yourself and your child to other parents and students – which will take us into tip number three.
#3: Make a Date
After you have introduced yourself and your child to other parents and students, get out your cell phone and collect their names and telephone numbers. Then, give them a call and set up a couple of dates to get the children together before the first day of school. This is especially important if you child doesn’t know any of the students at school. The very idea of showing up to school the first day and seeing a familiar face or two will have a huge impact on how your child’s day goes.
#4: Make it Routine
About a week before school starts we get back on our school routine. This means no more late nights on Minecraft — instead it is early to bed and early to rise. We work on his night time routine – getting his supplies together and brushing teeth. Then, we also work on his school morning routine which means getting up, doing chores, getting showered, dressed and having breakfast all before the time we will need to leave for school. This extra week gives his body and mind the time necessary to switch over to a new routine – and it’s a lifesaver.
#5: Practice It
If you have a child (like mine!) who has a hard time adjusting to new places and new routines – practice it before hand. For example, my son will have to be dropped off and picked up from school through a drop off line. If I wait until the first day of school to practice where he will go once I drop him off or wait until after school for him to try to figure out where I will be to pick him up – he would get overwhelmed very easily. I won’t even mention what would happen if we hadn’t practiced walking to all of his classes! Instead, the week before school we get back into the school routine, by visiting the school and going through the paces of drop off, finding each class, the bathrooms, the lunchroom, the library and where he will meet me to pick him up.
#6: Get Involved
When my son starts a new school, the first thing that I do is get involved. I want to know his teachers, counselor, peers and I want them to know me. I think that when you are a fixture at your child’s school, everyone benefits. Teachers are more comfortable telling you any issues that arise and you can keep an eye on everything that is happening at your school. I suggest joining the PTA, becoming a room parent and volunteering in any capacity they will allow.
#7: Give them Time
Regardless of all of the tips in the world, for my son the best tip is to just give him some time. It takes him longer than most kids to get comfortable in any situation and adjusting to a new school is one of the harder ones. After school, I always let him come home, get a snack and have some unstructured time to decompress. I always let him know that I am here for him and he can tell me anything no matter what it is. Usually, after a few days or weeks – your child will settle into a new school and it will be smooth sailing.
How do you help your child adjust to a new school?