Changing Schools Isn't Easy: Tips for a Successful Transition

Written By: Mary M. Alward
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It isn't easy for students to make the transition into a new school, especially if they have grown-up in a close knit community. Changing schools can be very stressful, fill them with anxiety and, depending on their age, be downright frightening. Students wonder how they will cope with their new school both academically and socially. A list of concerns whirls through their heads. Will I get along with my teacher? Will I be behind the other kids? Will I make new friends easily? Will anyone sit with me at lunch? Who will I talk to at recess?

Parents can help kids cope with such a transition by being a sounding board. Listen carefully to your child's concerns and don't make light of them. They may sound trivial to you, but to your child they are paramount. Be a source of support. Difficult stuff is made much easier for kids when they know they have your support.

When you move, be certain to continue family rituals and traditions. Spend time together and do the things you've always done as a family. If Tuesdays have always been the day that you and the kids watch and movie together after dinner, continue to do so. If Thursday evening has always been family swim night, go swimming on Thursday. This allows your child to be secure in knowing that not everything is going to change. It adds a sense or normalcy to life.

Encourage your child to keep in touch with friends from the old neighborhood. They can communicate with friends by phone, e-mail, letter mail or trade video or cassette tapes. Arrange for them to spend a weekend with old friends in order to catch up on what's happening in their lives. Keeping in touch with old friends while making new ones will soften the transition caused by the move.

Have your child make a list of his concerns and find answers to his questions. Encourage him to research his new community and find activities that interest him. Does his new school have a chess club, a band or a soccer or football team? Possibly it has a science or astrology club, a glee club or a school newspaper. Does the new school have a buddy system where your child will be paired-up with someone from his class who will introduce him to students and assist him in joining clubs or attending extra curricular activities?

If possible, make the move to a new community before school begins for the year. Introducing your child to a new school mid-year makes the transition twice as hard for him. By that time new school friends have already been made and groups have been formed. This makes it much harder for your child to make new friends. It's always harder to leave old friends and a secure school environment behind.

Moving to a new community can help a family become closer if they support one another. Let your child know that you are there for him whether he has a problem or just needs to talk. This will deepen the relationship between you and aid your child in adjusting to his new school environment.

Once you've settled into your new home, throw a BBQ and have your child invite his classmates and their parents. A party is a great way for both adults and children to make new friends.

Before your child attends on his first day, visit the school and meet the principal and his new teacher. Ask for a tour of the school that will include his classroom. This allows your child to know what to expect on his first day. It will also decrease his stress and anxiety levels.

If your child is comfortable with it, drive him to school and pick him up for the first week or so. It takes children approximately six weeks to settle into a new school environment. Remember to talk with him daily and ask him how things are going. Listen to his concerns and help him cope with any problems he may have. As long as he knows he has family support, he will do just fine once the transition has been made. Be patient and show your child that he can talk to you no matter what his concerns are. This will make for a much easier school transition.

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