How to Help Your Child Transition to a New School

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Like most transitions, moving can be difficult for kids — especially if they’re moving to a new community. Meeting new people, switching schools, and making new friends can be stressful. It can even cause anxiety and depressive symptoms if the child is not supported during the procedure.

Fortunately, there are things you can do to help ease the transition from your child’s old school to his new school. Whether you’re preparing to migrate soon or are already settled in your new community right now, we share what you need to know about this transition below. You’ll learn how your child may be affected and how long the transition will take, as well as tips on how to make the process go smoothly.

How does changing schools affect children?

Most children who receive support during the transition do quite well when they move to a new school. But for people who move around a lot or are especially introverted, they can be more challenging.

In fact, research has found that kids who move frequently have an increased risk of poor academic performance, behavior problems, maintaining grades, and even dropping out of high school. They are also at risk for social problems and psychological difficulties including social incompetence and low self-esteem.

Angie Frencho, MEd

Just as it can be difficult for adults to change, children experience similar emotions — anxiety, fear, and stress.

– Angie Frencho, MEd

“Just as change can be hard for adults, children experience the same emotions — anxiety, fear,” says Angie Frencho, MEd, a gifted teacher and intervention specialist. and stress. “Keep communication open. Talk about and validate feelings. Try to encourage new friendships in the neighborhood, through language exchanges, or [in worship communities]. ”

Because children thrive on predictability and routine, one move can leave them feeling disoriented and disconnected. Things that make them feel safe and secure — like familiar bedrooms and play spaces, as well as familiar schools and friends — are no longer part of their surroundings. Getting used to these changes and adjusting to your new home, community, and school will take time.

“They have to start from scratch with a sense of finding new friends and identifying teachers,” says Sandra Calzadilla, LMHC, a licensed mental health counselor specializing in child development and parenting. and employees they deem accessible or safe. As a parent, Calzadilla also has recent personal experience transferring her children to a new school. “They can also feel anxious or scared. Children tend to feel more secure when they know what to expect, and the unknown can be quite anxiety-provoking — some children can develop develop nausea symptoms such as nausea or insomnia.”

As children adjust to their new school and new surroundings, it is not unusual for them to withdraw or even act. Frencho says changing schools can also disrupt their learning experience. Not only do students face different curricula and different expectations at new schools, but schools may also differ in climate and teaching environments.

“For academia, changing schools can be very difficult,” says Frencho. “Because there’s no statewide or national calendar for when standards are taught throughout the school year, changing schools can create holes in your child’s academic background. Also, , if you move from public to private or vice versa or from state to state, there may be a completely different curriculum in place, which can create significantly more gaps in behavior. their learning process. Be aware of and ready to help with those learning gaps.”

How long will the adjustment take?

While every child is different, some children may feel comfortable in their new school within a few weeks while others may take several months to adjust. The adjustment period will largely depend on your child’s personality and temperament as well as the support they receive.

“You’ll see improvement usually within a month for elementary school kids, and it can take one to two months for teens, as they may be more self-conscious or afraid of rejection,” says Calzadilla. than”.

If your child is having a hard time adjusting, talk to them and see what might be holding them back. Ask them what they like and don’t like about their new school, suggests Calzadilla. Then see if you can help them focus on positive or brainstorm ways to deal with the negative.

It’s also important to acknowledge and validate their feelings – including feeling nostalgic for old school and old friends. Help them fact-check fears like “nobody likes me” and acknowledge how difficult it can be to make new friends, says Calzadilla.

“Talk to teachers and guidance counselors to determine if any additional support can be put in place to support your child,” she adds. “Retain previous friendships whenever possible so the child doesn’t feel completely disconnected from their peers.”

Tips for helping kids transition

It’s important to be patient and understanding when helping your child adjust. Change is difficult in any era and takes time. Some children can quickly adjust and develop friendships, while others will take longer. Support your child as best you can and find ways to make the transition easier. Here are some tips to help your child transition to a new school.

Explain why you move

When making a move, it is important to explain to the child why it is happening. Whether you’re moving because you’ve changed jobs, got divorced, or want to study in a different school district, your child needs to know the real reason for the move.

“Let’s be honest,” Frencho said. “Children deserve honesty.”

Even if your child doesn’t fully understand the reason, it’s important to give an age-appropriate explanation. Also, try to be as positive as possible about the move. Children have an uncanny ability to absorb the perceptions of adults in their lives, so focus on the positive while acknowledging how challenging moving can be.

Frencho suggests: “If this move also makes changes in your life, be honest and share how you deal with those changes. “Children love to know that adults often experience the same fears and anxieties as they do.”

Give them closure

Saying goodbye is hard, but leaving without saying goodbye to all that you know and love is even harder. Plan a time when your child can say goodbye to school, their friends, and their teachers. Just because they’re going to a new school doesn’t mean the old school will be less important.

Frencho suggests: “Give them time to say goodbye and end the meeting.

You may also want to give them space to talk about their feelings about leaving and any concerns they have about moving forward. And, if possible, make a plan to stay in touch with their classmates. For example, schedule a replay date, or if you’re away, plan a video call to catch up.

Knowing that they will see their friends again in some way can help your child feel more settled as they move on. While it won’t alleviate their fears or anxieties, allowing them to stay connected and experience the end can help signal the end of a chapter and the beginning of a new one.

Support their learning

Changing schools can create some holes in your child’s learning. Before moving house, be sure to discuss what your child is expected to know and what they will learn. And if needed, consider hiring a tutor or other study support.

Sandra Calzadilla, LMHC

Meeting the new teacher ahead of time can also give them some peace of mind during their first days and weeks at a new school.

– Sandra Calzadilla, LMHC

“Meeting a new teacher ahead of time can also give them some peace of mind during their first days and weeks at a new school,” says Calzadilla.

It can also be helpful to get a sneak peek at the new school. Ask your guidance counselor or principal if they can take you and your child on a tour. Knowing the location of the property — like where the coffee shop is or where to find the bathroom — can help ease some of their worries before the first date.

“Visiting the school before the start of the school year helps children become less disoriented,” says Calzadilla. “Show them where the office is and who they can turn to if they need assistance. [It also helps to] Let them know exactly what they can expect when it comes to drop off and pick up times. ”

Keep in mind that your child may also be more inhibited when they start a new school and may be more quiet or shy, adds Calzadilla. Be patient, understanding and supportive. Regularly check in with them. Allow them to work through their feelings and emotions and do what you can to relieve their stress and anxiety.

“Changing schools can affect their education, especially if they are feeling anxious,” says Calzadilla. “This can make it harder for them to pay attention and they may be disoriented or seem distracted because their emotions are being negatively affected right now.”

Set small goals together

Frencho says once you’ve settled into your new school, set goals together. Help them think about what their ideal scenario might look like and then break it down into small, manageable — and achievable — goals. For example, they may want to make it a goal to say hello to at least one new person every day, or invite someone over to play or study.

They may also want to try something new or ask more questions in class. The key is not to continue to stagnate in the new environment but instead push yourself a little bit each day to create an opportunity for the new school and new people.

“Set small goals together [helps them] Let’s get over the discomfort, make friends and ask questions,” Frencho added. Lead with kindness and encourage your child to do the same. ”

Let’s join the community

Look for community events and opportunities to help your child make new friends and connections. Enrolling them in classes, sports, or other activities that interest them will help them meet people with similar interests.

“Connecting with the kids in their neighborhood is amazing,” says Calzadilla. “This way, friends aren’t limited to school, and this can help children feel more connected to their new community. Structured events outside of school can also help children feel more connected. Additional friendship and networking opportunities are not limited to school and can be relied upon for common interests.”

A very good word

Whether your child is starting a new school now or will be starting soon, it’s never too early or too late to help them make the transition. Change is hard whether you are an adult or a child, so let’s overcome the challenge together. Be supportive, patient and understanding and you will both eventually get to know your new community and school.

If you notice your child is not adapting well or seems to be having more challenges than you expected, reach out for support. Talk to your child’s pediatrician, school counselor, or mental health professional. They can help you come up with a plan to help your child manage stress and anxiety while adjusting to the new environment.

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