Changing schools because of a move is difficult and even more difficult is to make that change partway through a school year. But if you're a parent who has to move during the school year, take heart. Children will adjust; it might just take a little more effort on your part to help them through the transition.
Helping Children Move During the School Year
- Talk to teachers and school administrators in advance of the move. School administrators will be the first to tell you that it's important for the school to be notified of your child's arrival, any special needs your child may have and if there were any problems at the old school. You may also want to discuss how your child feels about the move, if your child is shy or academic challenges you're concerned about. Remember, teachers and staff are there to help you with the transition. The more you're willing to share, the easier you'll make it for your child to succeed.
While the list above speaks more to your concerns, it's also equally important to point out your child's strengths, their passions and what they might miss about their old school. For instance, if your child played in the school band, and the new school doesn't have a band program, you may ask the staff what the community offers or if they have other suggestions on how you can keep your child engaged. It's critical that things your child loved to do in the old school be transferred to the new community.
- Talk to your children. Remember that each child will have their own way of dealing with the change. Some children will be vocal, while others may have a harder time expressing their feelings. Ask them what they need, how you can help and how they're feeling about the change. The sooner you start to talk to them about the move, the sooner they'll start to open up. Remind them that you know the move will be hard on them and that you're there to help. And when a child shares their feelings, make sure you try to understand what they're going through and be sympathetic even though you're going through your own transition and change.
- Help them get involved. With your child, talk about the activities at the new school that they might be interested in joining. Knowing ahead of time what the school offers is a great way to help your child begin the transition. If possible, get in touch with school coaches, teachers, councilors - whoever can assist in getting your child immersed in their new environment. Find out if the school has a buddy system for new students and ask for the buddy's name in advance.
- Encourage them to stay in touch, but to also make new friends. A great way to start the transition to the new school is to contact your child's new teacher and ask that soon-to-be classmates offer to be pen pals. Teachers are usually quite open to this idea as it helps bridge the gap and encourages students to become active in another child's experience. While it's a great idea to encourage your child to stay in touch with old friends, it can also make it harder to create new friendships in the new school. Try to balance contact with old friends and contact with new friends. Often you'll find that once your child is in their new school, it'll just take a few weeks before the new friends begin to take center stage.
- Keep in touch with the new school administrators and teachers. Just because it seems that your child has adapted to their new school, make sure you ask to speak to teachers and administrators who may have a better view of just how well your child has adjusted. They may see signs of trouble before you do; some children hide problems from their parents and want you to think that everything is fine.