Summer is winding down and the new school year is fast approaching. Excitement is in the air as children across the country gather their pencils, binders and backpacks and eagerly anticipate catching up with classmates, returning to clubs and sports teams and getting to know new teachers and subject matter. But kids planning to attend a new school this year may experience some anxiety during this time.
If you moved into a new home—and a new school district—over the summer and are concerned about your child’s transition to his or her new school, you aren’t alone. The good news is, kids tend to be pretty resilient and there are many things you can do to help your son or daughter during this adjustment period. Here are some suggestions:
- Find new friends. Visit your neighborhood park or library or sign your child up for classes or camp in town. Encourage older children to apply for part-time jobs at spots that local teens are likely to frequent. Your son or daughter may encounter future classmates and will, at the very least, get some practice meeting new people and making friends.
- Get the lay of the land. Check out the new school online and arrange to tour it ahead of time, if possible. It may also be helpful to accompany your child to orientation. Visit his or her classroom(s) and point out important locations throughout the building, such as the lockers, cafeteria and restrooms. If your child will be taking the school bus, visit the bus stop and describe (or even drive) the bus route beforehand to set expectations and help provide peace of mind.
- Validate your child’s feelings. It’s perfectly natural to feel a bit apprehensive in new settings and situations. Make sure your son or daughter understands that what he or she is feeling is 100 percent normal and that you are always available to answer questions, listen to concerns and provide advice and comfort.
- Remind your child of other firsts. Point out other successful first steps in your child’s life (e.g., first day of preschool, first time riding a bicycle). Reminding him or her of past successes can inspire confidence to take on new challenges, like starting at a new school and making new friends.
- Adhere to a routine. Too many changes at once can cause anxiety for anyone, especially children. Therefore, now might not be the best time to alter other aspects of your son or daughter’s routine. Instead, do your best to stick to scheduled activities and provide a warm, peaceful home environment.
- Encourage involvement. Does your daughter play the tuba? Did your son run track at his last school? Encourage your child to sign up or try out for extracurricular activities. They’re a great way to get involved, meet other students and settle into a new environment.
- Become a parent volunteer. Pitch in at your child’s new school, if possible. Volunteering in the classroom or cafeteria will not only give you a chance to get to know your child’s peers and teacher(s), it will also provide him or her with some extra support during the school day.