Amanda Setlak, Ph.D.
Starting a new school can be both exciting and scary. From pre-k to senior high, students all want to feel accepted and fit in with their peers. Changing schools may be a source of anxiety for your child, but there are some steps you can take to prepare him or her for a successful school year.
When you are ready to tell your child about starting a new school, keep it positive. Do your homework and find out what sporting activities, clubs or field trips are available at the new school.
If your child seems nervous, talk it through. Once you know what worries your child, such as a bus ride, transitioning to classrooms or trying out for a new team, you can offer helpful ideas and suggestions.
Whether you are moving to a new state or starting a new school down the street, timing can have a big impact on your child’s emotions and social behavior. Try to start the new school in fall with the new school year. Chances are your child will not be the only new student. Plus, your child will get to know the school’s routine from day one with the rest of his or her classmates, making the transition a little easier.
If you are moving to a new community, try to plan your move in early summer, before school starts. This way, your child can adjust to the new surroundings and make a few neighborhood friends before the first day of school.
Call ahead and schedule a tour of the new school or, if your school offers one, attend an open house. This will give your child a chance to meet the teacher(s) and explore the cafeteria, gymnasium, music room, computer lab and other areas of interest. For older children, ask to see an example of a daily class schedule and a list of extracurricular activities offered by the school.
Some children can jump right into a new schedule and start making new friends immediately. For others, it is more difficult. Find activities that your child likes at and outside of school. Arrange play dates with school, church and other friends. Most importantly, communicate openly and allow your child to talk about his or her feelings.
If you feel your child is not adjusting well to the new school, you may consider talking to the school counselor.
By helping your child realize his or her own strengths, you can aid in the friend-making process. Also encourage your child to: