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Acclimating Your Child to a New School

Back-to-School is always a hard time for parents and students alike. Parents have a whole list of back-to-school expenses, from lunch supplies, clothes, sports and club registrations, school supplies, pictures, immunizations, etc. They also have to coordinate schedules to get their children to school on time, change sleep patterns, help their students with homework, etc. It is also a stressful time for students, especially if they are attending a new school or just started middle school or high school. If you relocated with your family as a result of job or home loss, job changes, or other reasons, chances are your children have to switch schools as a result. Keep reading for ways to help your children adjust to a new school, no matter what their age is or the reason for the change.

Attitude is everything
Your attitude about the change will be contagious. If you find the positive in the move or transition to the next level of schooling, your children eventually will also start to find the good things. Children are directly affected by their parents emotions, there is a reason why the phrase “If momma ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy.” rings true. If you have frustrations or disappointments with the move, try to keep those conversations private, out of the ears of your children. Instead of focusing on the things that they will be leaving behind, talk about what new experiences and opportunities they will gain from the adventure ahead of them. You might find that in trying to show the positive aspects of the move to your children, you will also look forward to the change.

Encourage friendships
If your children are young, plan play-dates with other children in their new class, or in the neighborhood. Find a mom-group in the area that you relocated to, and attend their events to help your children make friends. If you can, volunteer in the classroom. While you can’t exactly arrange a play-date for your teenager, you can encourage them to join in clubs and sports at school. If they cannot make the school team, or the school doesn’t have a team, sign them up for community sports teams. Whenever possible, ask your children about the other students in their class. It is important to create quality relationships, rather than a large quantity of relationships.

Humans are creatures of habit, so start the “school routine” weeks before they will be attending a new school. Don’t wait until the last minute to start earlier bedtimes, mealtimes, etc. After they begin school at the new place, have a “leaving home” routine and a “coming home” routine that they will repeat every day to help make the transition easier. Have a specific place for backpacks, lunch bags, etc. to minimize the every-day stress of lost school supplies. Designate a homework location in the house so that they can start their homework in a distinct location every day. If you can, take a tour of the school with your child so that they know where their classes are, where the lunch room is, and if applicable, where there locker is.

Make time for your children to talk to you after school to discuss how they are feeling about the changes. Ensure that your children feel like they can be open and honest about their communication without fear of getting in trouble. Talk about the challenges and successes they find in acclimating to the new situation. Do not punish or mock your children for having a hard time adjusting. Be patient as it could take six weeks or more for your child to fully adjust to the new situation. If they are still not adjusted after six months, it may be a good idea to seek professional help.

Try to clear your schedule as much as possible for the first week or two after your child begins their transition to make sure that you can be there to talk to them about their struggles. Explain to your children in language that they can understand the reason behind the change, and give them enough information to help them truly understand the move. If they are teenagers, have adult discussions with them and let them know that everyone is making sacrifices, not just them. Give them time to grieve, but also be available for questions or to talk.

A list of unexpected back-to-school expenses is found on this blog.