Tips to Prepare Your Child for their First Day at a New School

There is no doubt about it – moving is psychologically disorienting for the whole family. Even if you’re moving to your dream home in a great neighborhood, there will be an adjustment period.

For kids (and teens), having to attend a new school and meet new friends can be a very scary ordeal. Here’s how you can help your kiddo cope with those new school jitters:

Do YOUR Homework

As soon as you get confirmation that you’re moving, start researching the school and community with your kids. Older children may want to do this exploring on their own. Check out the school website and calendar. Your school may have a student group that helps new students get acclimated to the new school and even hang out with them the first day, including the dreaded lunch hour, so they’re not eating alone.

The Chamber of Commerce will likely have a website and/or a Facebook page. If your neighborhood has a specific name, try a search on Google or Facebook. If you don’t know, just enter the new city name. Search for blogs, neighborhood associations, and Facebook pages you can follow. You can gain a lot of insight on the new neighborhood and ask questions in the group.

Explore Your Hood

Knowing where the grocery store, post office, school, and other places you’ll be visiting are is important because it gives you a sense of your surroundings. Make sure to take the kids with you as you explore. Take time to get out of the car and walk the new neighborhood. Be sure to stop for something fun like a special treat or spend time at the new playground.

What Your Child Is Really Worried About

Will I make new friends? Am I going to eat lunch alone? Will the other kids make fun of me? How will I find my classes? What bus do I get on? The unknown is scary, so don’t wait until the first day to help your child with all of their legitimate concerns.

Carve out a day for a trial run. Set the alarm and proceed like you would on any normal school day. Walk them to the bus stop, or if you drive, make a note of how long it will take you to get to the school. Find out the drop off and pickup points. If they walk, walk with them on the route you’ve decided on. Once you get to the school, help them find the classroom, locker, and bus lineup. If they will be changing rooms to attend different classes, get the printed schedule and walk to each room. Let them take as many times as needed to feel comfortable. Be sure to check out the gym, cafeteria, and bathroom locations as well. Having this trial run won’t completely erase the jitters, but they’ll feel more confident and less anxious.

A Fresh Start

This move can be viewed as an opportunity for a fresh start; especially if your child had poor grades or an unfavorable experience with classmates at their former school. Be positive, but don’t set the bar too high and put undue pressure on them to “make it better this time”.

On the other hand, your child may have been a star athlete/student, and they’re now worried if they’ll have play time on a new team or make the grade if the school is following a different curriculum. Put emphasis on the positive aspects of learning and living in a new city. Meet with the coach and teacher so they can answer any questions. Set the tone for this being an upbeat, enriching experience for everyone.

It Might Get Ugly

Just as you will be on a roller coaster ride of emotions, so will your child. There may be days of happiness in finding a new friend, and then irritability because the new school has “stupid locker combinations and the music teacher gave the first chair flute position to an obvious hack!”

You may witness some unflattering behavior or regression like thumb sucking or bursts of anger. Your first grader may suddenly need the night light they outgrew before you left, or your sixth grader is reverting to biting their nails again. Take a deep breath and know this too shall pass. Let them vent and listen to them without interrupting. Then, problem solve together. Everyone will adjust in their own way and own time.

How are you planning on helping your kids cope with new school jitters? Share with us!

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