Helping Your Child Adjust to a New School

As parents we try to structure our child’s life in such a way as to remove instability, provide predictable routines, and minimize emotionally difficult changes. However, now matter how hard we try, change does occur and sometimes it is impactful.

One of these changes that happens in every child’s life is moving to a new school. Whether your family is experiencing a job change that requires relocating to a new school district or your child is making the leap from elementary school to middle school, it’s almost certain at some point your child will change schools.

The first days and weeks of a new school can be exciting, but they can also be filled with uncertainty and anxiety. The following tips and strategies will help your child quickly adapt to her new school.

Stay positive

There is nothing that will help your child maintain a positive attitude toward their new school than your positive attitude. If you’re concerned about the transition, and you let it show, your child will be concerned too.

It’s okay to discuss your child’s fears and expectations, but reassure them they’re going to have a great year. Sometimes it’s helpful to let your child know that every other child is going through the same thing they are.

Let them know you’re in it together.

Nothing is more reassuring to a child, especially a younger child, than knowing that you’re going to be with them every step of the way. No, you’re not going to sit with them in class, but you’ll be there for them before school, after school and will even be available during school, if needed.

Volunteering at your child’s school or in their classroom can be an effective way of helping a struggling child adjust to their new school environment. If your child is older, help them select their classes and keep an open line of daily communication.

Making sure you’re physically and emotionally available for your older child will help them make a smooth transition to their new school.

Get your child involved.

Getting your child involved in school activities is a great way to ease their fears and help them quickly adjust to their new school. While you don’t want to force them into anything, you want to encourage participation in classes and activities that will foster new friendships and help them feel a part of the new school community – and less like an outsider.

Older students who participate in school activities, clubs, or sports tend to feel more connected and perform better academically. Getting involved in extracurricular activities outside the classroom can help a child feel more connected inside the classroom.

Get some sleep

More and more studies confirm what many parents have known for years, getting a good night’s sleep is necessary to have healthy, well adjusted kids. Getting enough sleep prior to a new school year is also important – especially if your child is relocating to a new school.

To make her transition easier, we recommend starting your child’s new school-year sleep routine several weeks before school starts. This will help ensure that her transition to a new school doesn’t include transitioning to a new sleeping schedule at the same time.

Go through their first day ahead of time.

Why wait until the first day of school to figure everything out? The unknown is what scares students the most about their first day of school – especially for those who are attending a new school. Sometime before the first day of school take your child on a trial run.

Walk them to their bus stop. If they’re going to walk to school each day, walk to the school with them using the route you’ve decided on. If your child will be going to school with friends, invite them to come along on your trial run.

Take your child to her school ahead of time and help her find her classroom. Make sure to attend the back-to-school night so she can meet her teacher and locate her classroom.

Show her where her bus pickup is at and help her identify which bus is hers. Taking your child on a trial run of their first day will help make her first day of school less daunting.

Send your child to school prepared.

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 man out. This is particularly true of younger students who are sensitive to feeling different or left out.

It’s also important to make sure lunch time arrangements have been made. If your child eats lunch at school, make sure they have money for lunch. If they take lunch to school, prepare a good lunch the night before so it’s ready to go in the morning.

Don’t get rushed.

The morning of the first day of school can often end up being a mad house – especially if you have more than one kid to get ready. In order to avoid the morning rush, get everything ready the night before. Make sure supplies are organized and in backpacks, lunches are made, clothes are laid out, and your child has her plan in place for her first day of school. 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.

Eat healthy.

Parents often overlook the importance of a healthy diet for children, especially when they’re going to school. A twinkie now and then is a welcome treat, but healthy snacks and a healthy lunch should be the norm. It’s also important that children eat a healthy breakfast every morning. Children who skip breakfast don’t have the energy or ability to focus and often have a hard time paying attention in class.

Take your child to school the first day.

Even if your child has an assigned bus, it may be helpful to take her to school the first day so you can introduce her to her new teacher and help her find her way around. Taking your child to school the first day, especially if they are in elementary school AND attending a new school, is a wise idea.

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