Think about how you felt when you first began school, or if your family relocated and you transitioned into a different school altogether. You were probably a bit scared and nervous. Chances are your children will be, too. Going to a new school doesn’t have to be a source of stress and anxiety for your kids. As a parent, what can you do to help them feel less anxious?
Try these ideas:
1. Avoid dismissing your children’s fears. They may be genuinely scared of starting at a new school, which is typical of many kids. Children may be worried about bullies, tough classes, and fitting in. They may also be afraid of having to make new friends or being alone. That said, it’s important to pay attention to your children’s fears and address them with empathy and understanding.
Transitioning to a new school is a significant step for kids. It may seem minor to adults, but children spend their entire day at school and have to complete their homework at night. Their lives revolve around school and the people they see there.
2. Consider the advice of professionals. Therapists recommend that desensitization may help kids with the transition to a new school.
Desensitization is the process of gradual and repeated exposure to what is feared, resulting in a reduced emotional response. If children are having difficulty adjusting to the thought of starting a new school, they may benefit from desensitization, which will help them feel more comfortable with the change.
The easiest way to do this is to visit the school with your child once, if not multiple times before the new school year starts. Stop by the front office and explain that your child is going to be attending and ask if you both can have a tour. If someone from the school isn’t able to show you around the school, they may allow you to walk through on your own. Visit your child’s new classrooms, playground, library, and cafeteria.
See if you can meet with your child’s teacher while you’re there. If they’re not available, you can at least find out where their homeroom class will be. You may already have their schedule for the year; try to find all of their classrooms. Walk your child through their daily schedule by visiting each classroom as they would during school hours.
Don’t forget about other important locations in the school. Locate the bathrooms, especially the ones along their daily path, so they’ll know where they can go when they have a minute between classes.
By visiting the new school, you’re helping your child to be prepared. By being familiar with the layout of their school, they’ll be less likely to get lost, thus making their first day more comfortable.
3. Point out the positive features of the new school. Does it have a bigger playground than their old one? Does it have a better lunch menu with more options? Is there a longer recess at this school?
By looking for the positive aspects, you can show your children that moving to a new school may be fun for them – at least in some ways. These positive aspects will give them something to look forward to as they start anew.
Conduct research on the new school and amaze your children with fun, new facts. You may also want to get a list of after-school activities and go through it with your kids to see if they are interested in participating.
4. Show your children their new routine. Kids love routines and will benefit from seeing the new version that will affect them.
Will your child ride the bus, walk to school, or will you take them every day? Find the quickest route for your child to get to school if they’re going to walk. Take the time to drive or walk along that route so that they know where they’re going. If you’re going to be driving your child to school, take them with you as you drive by the school. Help them get familiar with the route you’ll take each day.
5. Involve your children in the process of getting ready for the new school. It’s important for kids to feel that their opinions matter. This will help them transition to the new school with less fear.
Your children can help you pick out their school supplies and clothes for the new year. They can also help you think of new breakfast ideas or favorite foods they want for lunch and after-school snacks.
6. Remind your children that they have overcome other challenges in their lives. Your kids will feel more confident if they remember the other transitions they conquered.
For example, did your children move to a different neighborhood several years ago? Did they successfully join a new program at their local library? Maybe they took dance lessons, joined a sports league, or trained in a martial arts class.
A new school can be an intimidating place for children at first, but you can help. You can be instrumental in giving your kids a great start as they transition to their new school.