Attending a new school is a nerve-wracking experience for most kids. But a mid-year school transfer can be even more traumatic. After all, when you show up as the new kid in the middle of the year, all eyes are on you. And being the new kid, there’s always the fear that you won’t fit in, won’t make friends or won’t like their teachers. But as parents, you can prepare your children in advance for the change and support them at home in order to ease into the new school routine with greater self-confidence and less anxiety.
Talk openly about the transition with your child. Your attitude can make a big difference in how your child handles the transition. Regardless of the circumstances that prompted the transfer, it’s important to keep an open dialogue with your child. Ask them how they are feeling about the change and be prepared for some negative comments. Unless your kid is super easy-going, there will be some stress involved in this change and being there to support them is crucial. That means being understanding of their apprehensions and suggesting solutions whenever possible. Remind them, for example, of similar situations in which your child overcame anxiety or adversity, such as the first day at their old school, or that trip to the emergency room.
Prepare in advance. Anything you can do to increase your child’s familiarity with his or her new school, the students and staff is a positive step. So, whenever possible, arrange a tour of the new school for you and your child before the scheduled attendance date, and ask to meet with your child’s new teacher. Becoming familiar with the new building, classrooms, and students’ faces will help eliminate some of the newness and nervousness on the first official day.
Make early friends. Perhaps the biggest concern with changing schools midyear is meeting new friends. Students have already settled into their routines and may have formed little cliques. For a young teen especially, this can be a difficult scenario to walk into. Try to meet other parents from the school in advance, either through extra-curricular activities, in the new neighborhood, or through your church. If your child knows another student or two before they start, they won’t feel quite so alone. If you have a chance to organize a gathering at your home for your child’s classmates, do it. A simple get-together with music and good food could be the best ice breaker.
On the first day: Take extra time in the morning to be there for your child. Have a nice breakfast together and pack something special in their lunch. If your child is very young, be prepared for the tears that might come when you drop them off. If they are older, be prepared to hear “I’m fine!” At the end of first day, give them a moment to relax and unwind before barraging them with questions. Simple questions like asking them who they sat with at lunch, if they like their teacher and if they met any new friends will get the conversation going and give you insight into their overall feelings.
The next few weeks and months: Your child will be in adjustment stage. Keep an eye out for changes in your child’s behavior hat would suggest general discomfort with the new school. If your child used to love school but now oversleeps, has frequent stomach aches or just doesn’t want to go, your after-school discussions may have to go a little deeper than what he or she had for lunch. Keep in mind that this added stress could also cause a temporary drop in grades. Contact the teachers if there are any indications that your child is struggling to adjust. Enlist the help of a school counselor or friend of the family to talk to your child if they are reluctant to share their problems with you. If there are indications of bullying, try to nip it in the bud early on. Encourage new friendships and help your child get involved in school-related extra-curricular activities.
Changing schools can be a great opportunity for your child to experience new exciting challenges, make new friends, as well as cope with a life adjustment that can foster adaptability and independence. By planning ahead, you improve the chances of a midyear school transfer being a smooth transition for everyone involved. Above all else, be supportive, and keep the lines of communication open. Your child needs to count on you as a stable and constant source of support, now and always.