Change can be difficult for anyone, but this is especially true for children. Starting a new school is a change that can be particularly stressful and intimidating for kids. Whether the change is due to a recent move or graduating on to a higher-level school, this can be a time filled with confusion and anxiety. Moving is also a busy and stressful time for the entire family, so it’s important to keep in mind that kids have to adjust to new surroundings, a new home, and a new school, which can compound their fear and anxiety and make it that much more difficult.
As parents, you can try to make the transition easier. With a little help and encouragement, your kids might see the change as a new adventure to embark on.
The below suggestions can assist you with helping your children through this difficult time and alleviate anxiety.
Parents, Do Your Homework. Find out as much as possible about the school, your kid’s teachers and afternoon programs.
Plan a walk-through. Find out if you can do a walk-through with your child before they have to start their first day. This is a good opportunity for them to see the layout of the school, find classrooms, and meet the staff. Having done this will help alleviate some of the anxiety of the unknown they might be experiencing.
Stay Positive. By having a positive attitude, you’re showing your child that you believe this will be a positive experience for them. If you show concern, your child will pick up on that concern and the anxiety will continue to grow. Tell them you believe they’re going to make a lot of great new friends and enjoy their new school. Emphasize that all kids are nervous on the first day, but they will come through with flying colors!
Get Involved. As parents, we want our children to get involved in after school activities. Whether it be a sports team, drama club, boy/girls scouts, etc, getting involved helps to encourage new friendships, teamwork and leadership skills. Sometimes it’s difficult to get your child involved in these activities and that’s why it’s important to lead by example and get involved yourself. If your schedule permits, volunteer to help coach, join the PTO or ask your child’s teacher if they need any help in the classroom. Once your child sees you’re volunteering and making that effort, that might be the push it takes for them to agree to try it too.
Communicate. Tell your child it’s ok to ask questions. Explain to them that you want to know when they’re worried and what they’re scared of. The more they talk about it with you, and you’re able to answer questions and alleviate fear, the more apt they are to overcome some of their fear quicker. Look for possible solutions to their concerns and remind them you are in it together.
Prepare. Request of supply list from the school for your child. Be sure your child has all necessary notebooks, binders, pencils, pencil cases, etc. Walking into a classroom and not having the correct supplies can lead to your child feeling isolated and anxious.
Reach out to the teacher. Request a phone conversation or send an email to touch base with your child’s homeroom teacher. If there’s anything the teacher should know about your child, such as specific fears, illnesses or allergies, make sure she is aware ahead of time.
Be Patient. Remember that stress and fear can cause kids to act differently. They might complain of headaches or stomachaches, might not be sleeping well or might be moody or have frequent meltdowns. Continue to encourage them. Remind them that things will return to normal, and they’ll adjust even if they don’t believe it themselves yet.
Offer encouragement. When your child feels like he won’t make new friends or will never adjust to the new class, remind them of other accomplishments they’ve had in the past. Point out how well they did in a past school or on a new sports team. Remind them they CAN do it and you know they’ll be great.
Provide something of comfort. Some children find it helpful to keep a picture of their family or pet in their backpack or desk. Some prefer to keep a good luck charm with them. Either way, having something tangible to hold or look at is sometimes just enough to get them past the tough moments.
Make sure they get enough sleep. Without enough sleep, your child will have a lack of focus and become even more emotional. If your child will be getting up earlier than they’re used to, start changing their bedtime a couple of weeks ahead of time so they can adjust to the new routine.
Set time aside for one-on-one time. Try to sit down with your child before school to go over what the day ahead looks like. Talk about their fears and offer encouragement. After school or work, sit down with them again and go over what happened during the day. Talk about the worst parts and try to find ways to make them better. Try to focus on the good parts of the day and remind them of how proud you are of them.
All kids learn and adjust at a different pace. Those with children adjusting to a new home and a new school might find they’re having an even harder time. By encouraging communication and following the tips listed above, your child will likely have an easier time with the changes happening around them. You might even find they’re coming home with smiles and names of new friends sooner than they thought possible.