Believe it or not, the movies about the new kid at school eating lunch alone in the bathroom stall are not total exaggerations. I attended a high school outside of my district, so I didn’t know a single other person. In the mornings before the bell, everyone hung out in the cafeteria, talking and eating breakfast together. On the first day of school, I waited in a bathroom stall for thirty minutes. To me, this felt better than sitting alone. I would love to tell you that transitioning from one school to the next is an easy process, but that just isn’t the case most of the time, especially when moving across state or country lines. So, here’s where we try to answer the big question: what can you do to make your child comfortable enough to walk in the main doors and not into the bathroom stall? Check out the list below for some tips to prepare your child for a new school.
What You Can Do to Prepare Your Child for a New School
Encourage your child to be him or herself.
Birds of a feather flock together. As cliché as it sounds, you just need to encourage your child to be him or herself! If your child likes reading, encourage them to read in public; other bookworms will join in. If your child has a preferred style of clothing, embolden them to flaunt it (while maintaining the honor and dress code, of course)! By staying true to him or herself, your child will be able to find others who share the same interests much more easily.
Talk about meeting new people.
I know now that I should have introduced myself to another lonely wanderer. However, for introverted people like me, this is way easier said than done. Finding friends is one of the most anxiety-inducing parts of starting at a new school, but it’s also the first thing that will make your child feel at home. Depending on your child’s age, you may encourage him or her to join clubs, sports, or other extracurricular activities that he or she is passionate about in order to find a place to belong. In fact, we have already compiled a list of fun extracurricular activities!
Understand the curriculum.
School isn’t just about making friends. School is where your children will pave his or her path to completing future goals. Some schools work quickly along standardized curriculum, while others are behind. The new school may offer completely different classes than your previous one did. One of the best ways to combat your child getting lost in new curriculum is to be proactive. Try talking to the administrators and teachers and browsing online. You may be able to find curriculum information on the school district’s website, and there may also be statistics showing how the school district performs on state testing.
Talk to your child’s teachers.
If you know you are moving with enough advance notice, you can ask your child’s current teacher to make some notes to give to the next teacher. Either way, try to contact your child’s new teachers, especially in subjects that your child tends to struggle with. This step is particularly important if you are moving in the middle of the school year because you need to prepare your child to catch up if he or she is behind. If you’re worried about how to go about a parent-teacher meeting, check out some of these tips about conferences and visit the Global Family Research Project for a guide to conferencing.
Consider an enrichment program.
This tip is especially important when switching schools. Teaching style, expectations, and curriculum all vary from school to school, state to state, and country to country. Even with a national standard set, a school district change can be a major upheaval to a student’s learning. There are advantages that small classroom enrichment programs offer over private tutoring, which could be beneficial. Students may even meet some friends in a more relaxed, small-classroom environment that can be a friend in everyday schooling! This friendship advantage can be particularly helpful if you are able to start an enrichment program in the summer, which has tons of academic benefits, too.
Be there to listen.
Although there are ways to make things easier for your child, the most important thing you can do is simply be there for your child. Emotionally, your child depends on you. Often, you are the only thing that seems constant during ambiguous times. For some specific, extra help, check out these tips for the unfortunate day that your child comes home saying, “today was the worst day ever!”
Take your child on a tour.
Before the first day, you can help your child feel confident in the new environment by taking him or her on a tour of the new school. Reach out to the administrators and ask to schedule a tour. The school may even provide a map of the school to make your child feel even more confident navigating the new territory!
All in all, moving and starting over at a new school is different for every child. People have been moving around since the beginning of time, and they’ve always found their way. Do not worry: your child will too! These tips may just make the change a little easier.
What do you think about these tips to prepare your child for a new school? For all the readers that have changed schools, do you have any additional advice to offer?
Author: Morgan Leopold, Curriculum Writer at A Grade Ahead
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