Change is hard for everyone. Entering a new school is one of the biggest changes a child may encounter in his young life.
Parents can help smooth the transition and make it less traumatic.
“A lot of parents may feel anxiety about a change of school, but they should be careful not to project those feelings on their kids. Their child may not be feeling the same thing,” said parenting expert, blogger and author Richard Greenberg, who shares an analogy: “If you got in a taxi and said to the driver, ‘Take me to the airport’ and he said, ‘I don’t know how to get there,’ you wouldn’t feel too good about it. Kids are in the back of our cab. The key is to project confidence.”
Put yourself in their shoes and try and remember how it felt to be a kid in a new situation, he added.
“Let them know you’re part of the process. Project that this is going to be great. They’re going to have fun. Change is a part of life. It’s a part of growing up. Tell them that you’re proud of them. Use the power of positive thinking,” Greenberg said.
Make a friend early
“Friends play an enormous part of success in school,” said educational psychologist and parenting, bullying and character expert Dr. Michele Borba, author of “Unselfie.” “Friends keep kids happy. They make a child want to go to school. They are a support system.”
If you can connect your child with one friendly face before school starts, it can ease the process of changing schools.
“Walking into a new school without knowing someone is stressful,” Borba said. “The goal is to make your child feel secure in dozens of ways. Whatever you can learn and discuss ahead of time will reduce their anxiety.”
Look for opportunities for your child to meet neighbors and potential classmates over the summer. Check out library and park district programs and the local newspaper to see what’s happening in your area.
- Visit the school’s website. Take a virtual tour and download a map of the school if possible. Check the school calendar and read the school rules and dress codes.
- If possible, visit the school and talk to the teacher or an administrator before classes begin.
- Practice your introductions. Have your child come up with a short conversation-starter: “Hi! My name is Mike. I just moved here from Baltimore and I play baseball.” That way they’ll be ready with something to say to new acquaintances.
- Remind your child that it’s normal to feel anxious and let them know you’re there for them if they have questions.
- If your child is concerned about riding the bus, brief your child on safety rules and visit the bus stop in advance. Point out familiar landmarks and reassure your child that an adult will be on hand when they disembark at the school.
- Parents can contact the school’s parent teacher organization, which can provide information about the new school. Volunteering is a great way to become a part of a new community and make new friends for both parent and child.
- No matter how anxious you are when dropping off a child at a new school, don’t linger. Borba said. That will only increase their anxiety.