If your child is heading to a new school in September, I have a new school survival guide for both of you. Transitions are tough at any age, so try to make this big one easy on your child. Perhaps youʼve moved to a new city or neighbourhood, or maybe you are changing schools for other reasons. No matter what, there are ways to ease the transition!
1) Make a late August appointment to meet school staff.
In the last week of summer, schedule an appointment with the principal at the new school, and try to have say in choosing your childʼs teacher. Make your childʼs needs known very clearly, and as soon as possible. Decide what to share about your childʼs history and family situation. Be open and honest. The information you provide will help the school staff best prepare. Meet your childʼs new teacher if possible.
2) Get a tour of the school before the first day.
Where is the classroom? Lockers? Washrooms, gym, and library? Knowing the layout and the feel of the new school will help kids visualize that first day of school. It will provide some comfort.
3) Help your kids find new friends in the new community.
It is very comforting to see a familiar face on the first day of school. If you are new to the neighbourhood, look for kids on your street or at the local pool over the summer months. Ask your new neighbours about the kids who live near you, and try to meet some before school starts. Meeting a classmate will provide a bit of comfort on the first day of school.
4) Be open with your child.
Talk about the transition. Kids are very adaptable, but be very open and supportive of their upcoming transition. In case your child canʼt express himself easily, suggest drawing, or making a list of his worries. This can open up interesting and important discussions between you.
5) Stay connected with old friends.
Just because your child is moving on, it doesnʼt mean she has to say goodbye to old friends. Thanks to social media, kids can stay in touch in many different ways: Skype, Instagram, Facebook, texting, Face Time, and the list goes on. If you live close enough, plan a sleepover or outing with some close friends over the first weeks of fall. Old friendships will take a long time to be replaced, and may never be replaced, so hang on if you can.
6) Request a buddy.
In the early days at the new school, ask your childʼs teacher to pair her with a buddy who may share interests with her. The buddy can be a kind of “guide” to your child.
7) Be available in the first weeks of school.
If you can, try to clear your calendar in the first week of school, so that you can be very “available” to your child as he goes through this transition. Make sure you have enough time in the morning to establish a good routine. Donʼt be rushed. Set up new routines for before and after school. Be available to talk with your child, and to touch base with her teacher about any concerns. Later, you may want to volunteer in the classroom, so that you “get” what is happening at school and in the classroom.
8) Check in regularly with the teacher, via your childʼs school agenda.
Many schools use “agendas” for time and homework management, and parent/student/ teacher communication. Kids and teachers fill it out daily, and then parents review the agenda at night. It is a wonderful way to keep in touch and stay in the loop. At first, keep in touch with the teacher about your childʼs social transition to the new school. Later in the fall you can worry about academics, but at the beginning, keep on top of your childʼs social transition. If your child has special needs, then by all means keep on the pulse of all academics as well.
Best of luck with the new school and donʼt stress about it too much. Like everything else in life, “this too shall pass”. Before you know it, your child should be happy and well adjusted in her new place!