8 Tips to Help Kids Adjust to Changing Schools
Moving schools? Follow these tips to make the transition easier for your child.
Change. One small word that can trigger feelings of excitement, anxiety and fear – all at the same time. We tend to have this innate resistance to change, whether it’s a job, relationship or home – even if we know that the change will be good for us. If adults have this much trouble adjusting to change, imagine how it must be for kids.
Kids thrive on routines and predictability. It offers them stability and security, and helps them focus their energies on positive things like growing and learning. Even babies sleep better and fuss less when there is a routine to their day.
However, when this equilibrium is disturbed by a big change like moving schools, it can throw kids off balance. They may experience a certain level of excitement, but due to their limited world view and life experiences, there is a whole lot of fear of the unknown.
Whether it’s because you’re relocating or the child is moving to a higher level, a change in schools is often accompanied by changes in other areas of life as well. If you’re moving to a new country with a different culture or language, or if the move is because of a traumatic incident, it can make things worse.
Here are some tips for parents to take the stress off themselves, while also teaching kids how to deal with big changes in life.
1. Involve the Child in the Process of Choosing the School
One of the biggest reasons for anxiety during a big change is the uncertainty associated with it. Minimize this by getting your child involved in the process of choosing the new school. You can look through pamphlets or the school website together, and learn more about the place with each other.
2. Help Your Child Express His/Her Emotions
Bringing suppressed emotions out in the open helps us make more sense of them, and it also decreases anxiety significantly. This also works with kids, so encourage them to talk about what they feel. They can also draw or write down everything that’s bothering them. You can also extend the exercise so that they write about the things they’re excited about as well as about things they love about their old school. This will help you address their concerns in a more specific manner.
3. Gather Memories
One of the main reasons kids don’t want to change schools is because of leaving behind their friends and all the fun times they had at their old school. Channel these feelings in a positive direction by gathering their memories in a scrapbook. Let them fill it with photos of their school, their friends and other little bits and scraps. This is also a good time to gather their friends’ contact details so they can continue to stay in touch.
4. Make the Change Fun
A big change can seem both scary and exciting, but how the experience eventually turns out depends upon how we decide to look at it. Adjusting our mindset can make a big difference in how we experience life situations, and this is an important life skill for kids to learn. Make the transition to the new place fun, by being enthusiastic about it yourself. Assure your child that it’s going to be fine, even if they have a little trouble initially. Make it fun by shopping for new supplies and stationery with your child.
5. Be Prepared
Going to a brand new place without any idea about what’s in store can be immensely stressful for kids, and even parents. Get this load off by being as prepared as you can. Get the class timetable ready in advance so you know what needs to be taken on each day. Get all books, uniforms and supplies ready well in advance. Schedule things like eye appointments and haircuts. Make adequate arrangements for lunch and transportation.
6. Visit the New School Before the First Day
Don’t let the first day of school be the first time your child is seeing the campus. Have sneak peeks beforehand, so she can see where the canteen, library and offices are located. It also helps to get familiar with the new surroundings and new faces. If you can, find out what extracurricular activities are on offer, and let your child choose one she likes. This will help her feel more excited about the new place.
7. Get Help From Others
A support group is the perfect solution for adjusting to any kind of change, and that goes for changing schools too. Let your child talk to older siblings or cousins about their experiences in changing schools. It’ll help normalize their feelings while also reassuring them that things will indeed be fine. If your child is moving to another level like high school, it’s quite likely that some of his old friends are also accompanying him. In that case, it’s a good idea to go together on the first day.
8. Make the First Day Extra Special
The first day is going to be the hardest, so put in some effort to make it extra special. Make sure your child gets a good night’s sleep, and serve up their favorite breakfast. If packing lunch, add a sweet little note that’ll comfort them and make them smile when they open it. Even if you have made arrangements for transport, it’s a good idea to accompany the child to school on the first day, and also pick them up, so they know you’re always there for them.
While these are tips to help your child before starting classes at their new school, it’s important to keep up your efforts for the first few weeks. Let your child continue to talk about their feelings and experiences about the new place, and take it easy on them at home, in case they forget their chores or watch some extra TV. Check in with the teacher or principal from time to time, so you can monitor how your child is doing.
Adjusting to any kind of change is difficult, and a new school involves several changes – new teachers, new friends, new surroundings, and new rules. However, children are stronger than we give them credit for, and after the initial hesitation, they often adapt quickly. As long as they know you’re always available to talk to, they’ll have no problem in fitting in, and before you know it, they’ll have new friends and new adventures to think about!
(Pratibha Pal spent her childhood in idyllic places only fauji kids would have heard of. She grew up reading a variety of books that let her imagination wander and still hopes to come across the Magic Faraway Tree.You can view her blog at www.pratsmusings.com or reach to her on Twitter at @myepica.)
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