The beginning of the school year is always a time of transition. Summer break has come to an end, and it’s time to pack away the swimsuits and suntan lotion and break out the polo shirts and backpacks.
Some years involve more transition than others. Perhaps this year, your family moved to a new city, or experienced a separation, or other major life changes. Or perhaps your child simply graduated from elementary school or middle school and is moving on to the next phase of their education. Long story short, there are many reasons why your child might find themselves at a new school this year.
But if that transition does involve some factors that leave your child feeling particularly vulnerable or uncertain, adjusting to a new school can represent a serious source of anxiety. As a parent, it’s important to feel well-equipped and well-prepared to build up your child’s confidence and enthusiasm for the year ahead. Here are some pointers for how to do just that!
Mind Your Own Mood
It’s perfectly natural to want to sympathize with your child and to express concern for their well-being. But remember, they look to you and your example to determine how they should feel about what’s happening. If you project concern, anxiety, and/or fear about their ability to adjust to their new school, your child will assume that’s how they should feel about the situation, too.
By taking some time yourself to focus on what’s positive about the transition to a new school, you can more easily express confidence and enthusiasm to your child — which will help them feel better about the transition, as well.
Of course, this does not mean you should completely ignore any of the challenges that come with adjusting to a new school. But consider the difference between saying, “I just hope you’re able to find some friends quickly…”, and, “I know it’s scary to make friends. But you’re so friendly and tell such good jokes, I know everyone you meet is going to love you!”
The Power of Preparation
It’s no secret that children, especially younger children, can have very active imaginations. While imagination is a wonderful gift of childhood, it can also make scary things like the first day at a new school seem even scarier. What if EVERYONE at my new school is a bully? What if ALL of my teachers are the meanest people in the world and yell at me for everything? What if I can’t even find my classroom and get lost in school forever?
Providing your child with as much detailed information as possible ahead of time can help prevent these imaginary scary scenarios from getting out of hand. Touring the school, meeting as many of their teachers as possible, working together with them to ensure they have all of the supplies they need, and reviewing their daily schedule are all great ways to put your child’s mind at ease.
It may also help to remind them that it’s okay to do things like ask an adult for help finding their classroom, or to borrow any supplies they may have forgotten. Assure them that the teachers and staff at the school are well aware that the first day at a new school is a big adjustment, and they want to help!
All in all, it’s important for your child to know that you’re on their team. Remind them that you went to school just like they did, and that you know what it’s like to be “the new kid.” By staying positive, building up their confidence, and helping them feel well-prepared, you can help ensure not only a successful first day, but a successful year.