As summer break comes to a close, many children will be experiencing changes in their school experience at an entirely new school. Be sure to make the transition as easy as possible by talking with your child about the positive experiences they may have this new school year. Below are a few tips on how to help you and your child adjust to such a big change with the least amount of stress.
Introduce yourselves to the new school:
• Make sure that the new school expects you: register your child before the first day of class
• If possible, visit your child’s new school: try to meet the office staff, principal, and teachers before the transition to establish a personal connection and to help them prepare for your child’s arrival
• Some schools have “welcome packets” to give to new families; if not, try to get basic information, such as what time the school day begins and ends, the procedure for lunch (can your child buy lunch, does the school provide snacks, etc.), transportation procedures (what’s the bus schedule), and information about health services and emergency procedures
• Try to meet other school families; if you have an elementary school-aged child, see if you can arrange a “play date” with another child in the same grade (preferably before the first day of school.)
• Become involved in your child’s new school. Consider joining the PTA, or volunteering at the school; the more involved you are, the more your child will feel like his or her school is important to you and the more connected he or she will feel.
Help your child adjust:
• Make sure your child understands the reasons for changing schools; if you have an older child, try to give him or her as much “advance notice” as possible so that he or she will have time to adjust to the idea
• If time allows, show your child his or her new school and the surrounding neighborhood; see if you can arrange for a student to show your child around the school and introduce him or her to teachers and staff; some schools have a “buddy system” or other ways of helping your child meet other children in the school
• Make sure the school has what it needs to make the best decisions concerning your child’s classroom placement and academic and social needs; confirm that the new school has obtained your child’s educational, health, and other relevant records
• Be patient. It is perfectly normal for a child to feel anxious, scared, or irritable during times of transition. Let your child know that you understand that this is difficult; take the time to listen to his or her concerns, and spend time together while your child develops new school connections and friendships
• Stick to your routine. If rapid changes have left your child upset, knowing what’s expected at home can provide a comforting calmness. Encourage your child to feel good during this stressful time: encourage (or enforce) a schedule including a regular bedtime and a healthy breakfast.
• If your child had a negative experience at his or her last school, speak positively about the fresh opportunity that the new school presents. Help your child develop new goals for school success
• If your child is young, or is particularly nervous, consider accompanying him or her to school for the first few days
• Encourage your child to become involved in school activities, sports, or after school clubs
• Make sure your child has what he or she needs for the first day of school (ask the school for a classroom supply list.) This will make your child feel more included on the first day.
• Help your child identify something good about his or her new school, and offer comfort and reassurance that adjusting to a new school takes time.
One of the most important steps as a parent is to realize that moving to a new school is a very big deal for many children. There may be a few bumps in the road along the way, but remember to be patient, understanding and there for your child and he or she will eventually adjust. This adjustment could take up to 6 weeks. If the adjustment continues to be struggle after several months be sure to consult with a school counselor to help with any further assistance.
Do you have a skill or passion that you would like to teach the next generation? Consider becoming a 4-H volunteer. 4-H offers a wide variety of opportunities for volunteers to make a difference in their community, or even at their school. Next week, our blog post will focus on ways that you can volunteer through 4-H school programs. To find out more about volunteer opportunities, contact your local UF IFAS Extension Office, or visit http://florida4h.org/volunteers.