Ahhh summertime. Pools are open, children are home, and fall seems so far away. But for many families, summer is a time to transition between school environments. Some families move to a new location, while others simply transfer to a new school environment because they move up in grade level or have the chance to attend a different school in their area.
In either case, it’s important to understand that changing your child’s school environment will impact them. When a child changes schools, even if they’re young, they are leaving a familiar, usually comfortable environment full of familiar faces and exchanging that for an unfamiliar, unknown school full of strangers.
So how can you help your kid adjust to their new school?
Understand the Challenges That Come With a Move
The first thing to remember when you’re preparing your child for a move is that they will feel a certain level of apprehension over their impending transition. Even a child who is an extrovert and makes friends wherever they go may feel a certain level of stress and fear at the thought of entering a new school for the first time.
The best way to understand how your child is feeling is simply to spend a few minutes putting yourself in their shoes. Ask yourself:
- What did my child love about their old school?
- Who or what will my child miss the most about their old school?
- What are some specific fears my child may be dealing with at this time?
If your child is old enough to be in school, then they’re old enough to have beloved friends and teachers in the place they left behind. Even young children who haven’t experienced anything beyond the preschool environment can still feel a certain amount of sadness at leaving their beloved teacher and classmates behind.
As a parent, your job is not to convince your child that they shouldn’t feel those strong feelings. Your job is to help them process their emotions and find positive ways to overcome their feelings of sadness and stress.
Preparing Your Child for a Move
You won’t be able to prevent your child’s sadness, nor should you try. However, there are ways you can soothe their sadness and help ease their transition into a new school environment. Many parents believe that this process can’t happen until school begins, but you can do many things to prepare for changing your child’s school long before their first day. Here are some tips for how to prepare kids to change schools.
1. Communicate With Your Child
The worst thing you can do is hide the fact that you’re moving or wait until the last minute to tell your child what’s happening. Once you’ve decided to move or change schools, let your child know. This gives them time to begin accepting the move and also the chance to start looking for closure with their friends and their current school.
2. Involve Your Child in the Process
If you are enrolling your child into a private school, let them help you as you look for the right school. Ask them to give you some suggestions for things that are important to them, such as a school with an orchestra or an intramural soccer team that meets after school. Even younger children can express their opinions about things that matter, especially things they loved about their old school and would like to see in their new school environment.
3. Collect the Necessary Paperwork
Before your child leaves their old school, make sure you have copies of their official record, as well as a sampling of their academic work. Call ahead to your child’s new school if you aren’t sure what paperwork you’ll need. Gathering all of this before your child starts at their new school will help to make registration a smooth process. It can also help their new school enroll them in classes that meet their needs and their academic abilities.
4. Ask for Contact Info From Friends and Teachers
In this day and age, it’s easy to stay connected, even when you’ve moved to a new place. Help your child collect email addresses and phone numbers of their closest friends so they can keep in touch after the move. You’ll also want to have contact information for your child’s old school so that you can contact them if your child’s new school has questions about their records.
5. Time Your Transition
If possible, try to time your move with the start of a new school year. When everyone is starting at the same time, your child is less likely to stick out as the “new kid” because everyone is starting with new teachers. It’s also more likely that there will be several new kids starting at that time as well.
8 Tips for Helping Your Child Adjust to a New School
If you’re moving during the summer, then you’ll likely have some time before your child starts at their new school. This downtime can actually be a valuable time to help your child prepare for adjusting to a new school environment. Wondering how to make changing schools easier? Here are our top tips for helping children change schools.
1. Visit the School Ahead of Time
Don’t wait for Back-to-School night or the first day of classes. Arrange for your child to tour their new school as soon as possible. While most teachers and students won’t be in the building over the summer, guidance counselors and the administration work year-round and are available to give tours. Spending a half hour or so walking around your child’s new school can go a long way to put their mind at ease about what they’ll be facing on the first day.
2. Get Involved in the Community
Find ways for your child to meet other children who will attend their new school in the fall. You can go about this several ways, but some of the most common ways to socialize in the summertime include spending time at a community pool, attending services and activities at a local house of worship or enrolling in a local day camp. There’s also a lot to be said for spending time at your neighborhood park — there’s no better place to meet people in your school district than right there in your own neighborhood! Starting a new school is easier when your child knows there will be a few familiar faces in the hallway — and it gives them the chance to get the scoop on their new school from others like them.
3. Maintain a Positive Attitude
Your child will need your reassurances that everything will be okay. It’s a good idea to spend some time talking to your child about what they can expect at their new school, especially if there are some differences from their old one. While you won’t be able to erase all of their apprehension, you can help to manage their stress by emphasizing the exciting things about their new school. Not sure where to start? As you tour the new school, note the things your child loves, such as a vibrant art display, the soccer fields out back or the brand-new swingset right outside of their classroom. Bring these positive things up often to feed your child’s excitement.
4. Give Your Child Space to Express Their Feelings
If you’ve recently moved to a new area, it can feel like there are thousands of little details demanding your attention. While it’s tempting to focus on unpacking boxes or acclimating to a new job, don’t lose sight of your child’s feelings in all of this. Make time to talk with your child about the changes that are happening and their feelings about those changes. If your child isn’t much of a talker — or they’re too young to express their feelings fully — encourage them to draw or use their imagination to act out their feelings with their toys.
5. Don’t Give Them Too Much Downtime
The worst thing you can do for a child in transition is to give them a lot of time to sit around and think. During your summer, make a point to participate in fun activities. Go swimming at the local rec center, attend a storytime at the local library, or engage with a local parent group that organizes regular outings. Besides helping your child meet other children their own age, keeping them busy prevents them from dwelling on the fear of the unknown and their new school.
6. Don’t Overdo It
While engaging in a few activities is a great way to stay busy and meet new people, parents tend to go overboard and engage their kids in everything. If you’ve moved to a new area, resist the urge to sign your child up for several new activities and every sports team you can find. Forcing them to interact with other children or engaging them 24/7 will only make them tired and irritable. There’s nothing wrong with activity, but make sure you leave time for your child to relax and avoid unnecessary fatigue or stress in the days leading up to their first day of school.
7. Connect With Other Parents
One way to help your child transition in their new school is for you to become connected and engaged with other parents. Joining the PTA or finding opportunities to volunteer at your child’s school can be a great way to learn about the school and get to know the teachers and staff who will be helping your child. Young children especially may find it comforting to know they’ll see their parent in the hallways periodically.
If you don’t have time to get involved at the school regularly, make a point to start connecting with other parents at school events or after-school pickup. When you feel more connected, you can help your child find ways to become more connected too. It’s also helpful to model social interaction for your child. When they see their parent introducing themselves and making conversation with new people, children can be encouraged to do the same.
8. Stay Connected
Find out how your child’s school communicates information — email, text, phone, web — and make sure they’ve got your contact info. Staying on top of the school schedule, as well as special events and activities, is a great way to help your child feel involved. It’s also important to connect with your child’s teacher if you didn’t do so before school started. Teachers and guidance counselors can pay additional attention to the “new kid” to make sure they’re assimilating well into their new environment and alert you of potential problems before they spiral out of control.
Signs to Look for Before and After the Move
Children are versatile. Most children will transition well into their new school environment after just a few weeks. But, sometimes children struggle to adapt, or they encounter an environment that’s different than what they’d expected. You don’t have to look far to find that the effects of changing schools on children can be vast. As a parent, be sure to keep an eye out for signs that your child may be having trouble adjusting to a new school environment, including:
1. Changes in Behavior
Each child is different, which means the warning signs will vary. It’s your job as the parent to pick up on the clues that your child may be struggling in their new school. Is your normally talkative child spending more time alone in their room? Is your energetic child suddenly sleeping all the time? Other clues that a problem may be brewing include a change in appetite, constantly asking to stay home from school and, especially in younger children, an increase in the need for parental affection, such as asking to be picked up or held.
2. Acting Out
This takes different forms at different ages. For younger children, you might notice an increase in temper tantrums. Older children may be more likely to argue, refuse to follow directions or antagonize their siblings more than usual.
3. Slipping Grades
When children transition to a new school, they may also be transitioning to new teaching styles and a new system of grading. If you’ve moved to a different state, the material may be more advanced than what they covered in their old school, or it may be a review for your child, leaving them bored during the school day. If your child starts bringing home grades that are consistently below the quality of work they were doing at their previous school, don’t hesitate to talk with their teacher and figure out the source of the problem.
Make Changing Schools Easier
Whether your child is 5 or 15, changing schools is never easy. To a child, a change in schools means leaving behind familiar friends, teachers and setting all for something completely unknown. This can be stressful for children, but when you are prepared for this transition, you can handle it smoothly and with relatively few bumps along the way.
Whether your child is entering school for the first time or they’ve transferred from another institution, we recognize the challenges your family will face when your child begins school with us. At Haymarket Children’s Academy, we’re committed to helping new students transition to our school as quickly as possible. We love having new students join our tight-knit community, and we’re always ready to welcome new faces!
Offering a wide range of programs from infant care to kindergarten, Haymarket Children’s Academy is the premier provider of early childhood learning and care in Gainesville, VA. For more information about our programs, contact us today!