How you can make starting at a new school a positive experience for your child

Change is hard. It derails our routines, those things that keep us feeling safe. It removes our comfort zones and forces us to confront fears. As adults, we have the advantage of experience. We know that without change, we can’t grow. We recognize that change can make us stronger. We also have learned from past changes to make new changes easier.

If your family has decided to send your kids to a new school, there are some things we’ve learned through time and experience. We’ve compiled some tips and pointers that can help you walk with your child into this new season.

  1. Keep the safe places safe.

It’s easy, as parents, to tackle a problem and then move on. But for kids, the process is entirely different. Change, for kids, happens while they still aren’t sure who they are or how they should respond. Change can be a threat to the safety they depend on. That’s why there’s value in creating and maintaining certain safe places in their lives that exist outside of the new adventure they’re in at school.

Family dinners and conversations. Friday night movie nights. Church. Friends. Weekend adventures. Time with their grandparents. Do your best to maintain certain parts of life that are stabilizing to your child. This will give them a safe place where they can remember who they are amidst the transition they’re in.

  1. Talk about friends they haven’t met yet.

The night before the first day of school is both brutal and beautiful for kids. Their minds are somehow perfectly balanced with dread and delight. They are excited about all the possibilities. They are nervous about the potential of disappointment.

And perhaps their biggest worry is related to the social component of school.

Remind your child that the kids at this new school are simply friends they haven’t met yet. These friends, though their names aren’t known, are going to be part of their lives, on basketball teams and at lunch. They won’t be besties with all of them, but some of them will be lifelong companions.

Friends they haven’t met yet. It’s disarming, and even a little bit endearing.

  1. Talk

Be intentional in this process about communicating. Don’t just ask, “So how’s the new school?” Kids rarely answer open-ended questions like that very effectively. When they’re young, it’s often because they lack the social awareness or emotional intelligence to engage. When they’re older, it’s because you’re the parent and a little lame.

Consider engaging your kids with questions like, “What are the best three things about your new school?” and “What do you miss most about your old school?” Ask them specific questions. If they mention a kid in their class, use that as a chance to dig deeper. It actually becomes a fun exercise as a family and gives you material for future conversations.

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Kids rely on routine. They depend on consistency. It’s what makes changes like starting at a new school so difficult. But the opportunity is there as a parent to make it a positive experience for them. While they adjust to the newness of a different school, new surroundings, and changed routines, you can remind them of who they are. You can help them talk about what they’ll miss, what they’re excited about, and what they’re learning about themselves along the way. Ultimately, you’re giving them what they’ll need for the rest of their lives.