Starting a new school can be a difficult, and overwhelming experience or an exciting adventure for children, depending on the reasons behind the move. It’s natural for them to feel worried if they don’t know anyone or are going to a school in a different neighbourhood, or even a city if it’s a residential school. Common concerns typically centre around fitting in and making friends in a new environment, and as a parent, you can ease this transition with a few tips.
Before making the decision to move your child to a new school, the first step is in evaluating the reason you are keen to make this choice. Here, consulting your child is of utmost importance. Try and visit the school in advance, and have your child identify things they like about the place before you make the move so they have something to look forward to.
Here are some tips for helping your child adjust to a new school:
1. Involve in the school community
Parents can attend school events, meet the teachers and other staff, and volunteer their time. Involving in the school community can help your child adjust to a new school in several ways. It can provide your child with a sense of belonging and connection to their new school by meeting other parents and staff. Being involved in the school community can also help you stay informed about school events and activities, and provide more opportunities to be more involved in your child’s education. Participating in parent-teacher associations, volunteering for school events, or attending school meetings can give you insight into the culture, expectations, and policies of the school. Participating in the school community can foster a more positive and successful experience for both you and your child.
2. Help your child make connections
Encourage them to join departmental clubs or sports teams, or to seek out other students with similar interests. Making friends can help your child feel more comfortable at school and make the transition easier. Encourage your child to ask for help when they need it, and to speak up if they feel overwhelmed or uncomfortable as it is natural for children to feel anxious about being in a new environment. You can connect with other parents, and also help organise play dates or other activities for a group of children in the same class as your child.
3. Set up a routine
Establishing a consistent routine can help your child feel more comfortable and secure in their new school. This might include setting a regular bedtime, packing their bag the night before, and having a set morning routine. At this time, make it a point to help them get familiar with this routine in advance of the school’s schedule. Offer to include foods or items which they enjoy and find comfort in. Ensure the foods packed are to their liking as much as possible to ensure there are some aspects of their life which are familiar to them. Establish certain routines which remain unchanged for them to give them a semblance of continuity from one school to another. This could be through extracurricular classes that they enjoy and can continue so they have one group or activity that’s consistent.
4. Support your child’s learning
Stay involved in your child’s education by asking about their school work, helping them with homework, and staying informed about their progress. Encourage a love of learning by providing a variety of educational resources, such as books, educational videos and educational games. Motivate them to keep an open mind and to try new things, even if they feel nervous at first. Keep checking in on their progress at school by communicating with teachers weekly and also having open conversations about things your child likes and dislikes about their school. Keep an eye out for things that are bothering them, or are affecting their ability to focus.
5. Don’t be rushed
The morning of the first day of school can be hectic. In order to avoid the morning rush, have everything ready the night before. Make sure supplies are organised, the backpack is ready, the uniform is laid out, and your child has their plan in place for their first day of school. Most schools will let parents know ahead of time what supplies and materials are required for students. Arriving at school with the appropriate supplies and materials keeps children from feeling like the odd one out.
This is particularly true of younger students who are sensitive to feeling different or left out. Planning the night before will allow your child to get plenty of sleep, get out the door on time and not feel any additional anxiety. For the first day of school, it might help to have them rehearse introducing themselves to new people. Practising this will allow them to get comfortable with the idea of new people, and a new environment.