It’s never easy to be the new kid. Unfamiliar faces, an unexplored campus, and seemingly strange dynamics all await your child on day one, and they know it. Imagine your child skipping happily into a new classroom, making ten friends, and having someone to sit next to at lunch. Got that out of your system? Ok, good. Now let’s get real. Here are some tips to make the transition to a new school less anxious, less stressful, and more enjoyable:
- Open communication – Let your child know why you chose the school. Was it the Mandarin program? Spanish immersion? Strong STEM focus? A belief in art and open play? You aren’t trying to ruin their life, but make it better. If it wasn’t a choice, or simply because of a move, tell them that too. Your transparency will help them.
- Welcome their emotions, no matter what they are – Ask open ended questions. Let them say exactly how they feel, and only LISTEN. Now is not the time to make arguments, provide examples for why their feelings are wrong, or recite platitudes. After you’ve listened, tell them you understand and their feelings are valid. Like adults, sometimes children want only to be heard.
- Lead by example – Introduce yourself to the mother’s of your child’s classmates. Get involved. Make connections. You don’t have to become PTO president, but letting your child watch you step out of your comfort zone shows them everything will be okay for them too.
- Make it exciting – Back-to-school shopping can be an event. Supplies, the first-day outfit, new shoes. Make a day of it, and end with a special trip to get their favorite treat.
- Scope out the school beforehand – If your child is experiencing a lot of anxiety, visit the school before the first day. Walk around, show him or her their classroom door, peek at the lunchroom. If this is a school where your child will be switching classes during the day, a run-through of their class schedule and walking the route may alleviate the stress of figuring it out on day one.
Transitioning to a new school can be frightening, but it’s also an opportunity for new friendships, growth, and learning. It’s natural to be anxious for your child, but keep your emotions in check. They’ll pick up on your apprehension. Smile, be upbeat, and encourage your child to do the same.