Prepare Your Child for the First Day at a New School
Tips for Easing your Child’s Move to a New School
Moving is a lot of work and a big adjustment, even for adults. But it can be scary for children making their first move to a new home. Whether you’re moving across the country, the state, or just across town, adjusting your child to a new neighborhood and a new school can take time. So, it’s important to plan ahead to help ease the transition for your student. Let’s explores some ideas you can use to prepare your child for their first day at a new school.
Handle those First School Day Fears
Fear is a natural emotion that will come up during any transitional period. You can help your child identify a fear and connect it to situations in the past where he/she was afraid and everything turned out fine. Some other ways you can help your child cope with being scared include:
- Let your child know that everyone is nervous on the first day, it’s natural
- Role play ways to handle particular scary scenarios they may be worried about, letting your child play the teacher or other students
- Have a special night-before-the-first-day supper
- Ensure a good night’s sleep
- Enjoy a fun first-day-of-school breakfast together
- Walk your child to the bus stop or to school, or skip the bus and drive them the first day
- Put a note in your child’s lunchbox to give them a boost in case they are nervous about the first lunchtime
- Be patient and supportive over the first days and weeks as your child gains confidence and feels more secure in the new school setting
Go ahead and share your experience with mild fear as well. The child will feel validated and supported when a parent shares their story and normalizes the emotion. Be sure to pick out a story where everything turned out fine.
Learn About the New School
New schools can feel intimidating to a young child who just wants to belong. A few ways you can help your child reduce the first-day jitters are to:
- Check out the school’s website or other online information with your child, discussing differences and similarities with their old school
- If there are two schools to choose from, allow your child a voice in the decision
- Arrange a tour of the school for yourself and your child before he or she starts school
- Make a fun activity out of shopping for school supplies and let your child pick out colorful notebooks, fun clothes, backpack, or lunchbox
- Make the school a family affair: volunteer for bake sales, fundraisers, or as a field trip chaperone
Be mindful not to create a “perfect picture” of your child’s new school, such as saying “everything will be great” or “all of the kids will like you.” These comments can give your child a false sense of what to expect or make them feel responsible if it doesn’t all turn out perfectly. There will be things your child doesn’t like about the school and it’s ok to discuss those. Then, follow up by asking them to name one or two things they do like. This will help them move faster to accepting and enjoying their new school.
Finding New Friends
Children need a sense of safety and belonging. A child will seek to find a way to fit in at school, so it’s important to support them in that process. As a parent, your goal is to help them make the process easier, and make sure they make good choices in selecting their new friends. A few ideas for supporting your child’s need to belong include:
- Provide opportunities for your child to make friends before school even begins, such as joining a summer sports league, attending church functions, going to summer day camp or visiting the local playground
- Arrange to carpool with a neighbor kid in your child’s grade
- Make time for them to participate in after school or club activities to build social skills and meet others with the same interests
- If they have particular concerns about meeting others, role play social skills and situations that may come up in your child’s classroom, letting your child play both him/herself and the other person
- When they do find friends, make time to help them get together for social events. If they want to visit each other’s homes, arrange to meet the student’s parents
- Keeping the lines of communication open at all times but don’t “helicopter”. Making new friends can be scary, but most kids do just fine and the process builds self-confidence.
Getting to Know the New Teacher
If your student is a bit shy or feeling nervous, it can help to meet the new teacher outside the normal noisy full classroom situation. A meeting also lets the teacher assess your child in a quiet setting giving them a chance to decide what the best approach will be to help your child succeed in the classroom. Here are some ways to soothe your child’s fears around meeting a new teacher:
- Arrange for your child to meet the teacher before school begins
- Prioritize attending your child’s school open house
- Bring any questions you have about the curriculum and the coming school year to put you and your child at ease about what to expect
- Explain any special concerns or needs that your child has to the teacher so they will get off to a good start
Parents and Kids Can Adjust to a New School
Transitioning to a new home in a new town or neighborhood is sometimes stressful, but starting at a new school, like a new job, can bring a lot of challenges. Parents can help ease the way for their kids with a little extra support and attention to some of the issues discussed above.
Most kids adapt well, but if you do find you child still struggling, don’t be afraid to ask for help from the school counselor or others who help families deal with these transitions all the time.
Need Help Moving?
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