If you’ve moved your family to a new city, you may be dreading the start of the school year. On top of all the upheaval your kids have been through, they are now going to be the new kids in their classrooms. You may have fears of kids being teased, picked on and bullied, or of your child eating alone in the lunchroom. Here are some tips for making the first day – and first few weeks – a good experience.
First, separate your fears from your kids’ fears. Talk to your child about what she’s feeling, rather than what you’re feeling. You may be worried the most about your child being lonely and bullied; he may be more afraid that he won’t fit in, especially if you’ve moved from a large city to a small town, and vice versa.
Before School Starts
Make the school seem familiar. For younger kids, take them to play on the playground and walk them around the neighborhood the school is in. For junior high and high school kids, it’s a good idea to show them to the school, but also important to get them familiar with the curriculum, the daily schedule, and extracurricular activities. The school’s website can be an invaluable resource for this.
Call the school and ask for a tour for your new student, and be sure to attend any orientation or new student events together. Your child will be less anxious if they don’t have to worry about finding their classrooms, the bathrooms, the cafeteria and their locker. Also introduce them to their classroom or homeroom teacher, and ask how they support new students. If there’s a buddy system for new kids, ask questions about who gets picked to be a buddy and why.
Be sure to keep your child involved. If they have a choice in between art and music classes, let them make pick the class that they prefer.
The First Couple Weeks
Maintain your routine at home. With uncertainty at school, a steady and calming routine at home offers stability. Starting a few days before the first day, set and maintain a rhythm of bedtimes, wake-up times, evening activities and chores. Anxiety may make sleep more difficult, and sleep deprivation can adversely impact academic performance, so make sure your kids are getting enough sleep.
Encourage socialization. Whether it’s finding kids for a playdate, joining a sports team or other activity, or throwing a party, letting kids socialize at home or a non-school setting will help them find their feet. Letting their talents shine in sports or other activities can make them more confident at school. And trying out a new activity or sport can let them draw strength from new skills.
If you’re able to, get involved as a volunteer at school or with the PTA. Volunteering will introduce you to the teachers and classmates, and let you experience the school culture. Joining the PTA will let you meet other parents, and allow you to be involved without hovering.
Talk to them about school. Ask about classroom activities and what they’re learning. How your child responds to these questions will provide insight into how their acclimation to the school. Excitement and enthusiasm about activities and lessons are a good sign; watch for persistent negative responses, repeat tantrums, and repeated refusals to talk about school.
Remember that kids are resilient. Most children will adjust and thrive in four to six weeks, but if your child is persistently unhappy about school and attempting not to go, talk to them to discover what the problem is. Once you’ve found out what your child’s problem is, you can go to their teacher and the school administration.