girl nervous about new schoolIf your family is like most, you will move to a new house and your child will change schools at least once prior to graduation. A change in schools can be as stressful for children as changes in jobs and communities are for their parents. For many children, their school is the center of not only their educational life, but also their social and recreational life.  

Although moving to a new community holds the promise of something new and different, school-age children are often more worried than excited about it. They likely will not want to leave their friends behind. They may fear that they will not like the kids in their new school or, even worse, that the kids will not like them. These jitters are natural, but you will not be able to completely put your child’s fears to rest by soothing words of reassurance. Only experience—and time—can do that.  

6 Helpful Tips for Parents

With the myriad concerns that parents must attend to during a move, it’s easy to give short shrift to the school change. Parents can take the following steps to ease a child’s transition:    

1. Do your homework on possible schools for your child. 

With a little detective work, you can find information about your new district, such as money spent per child, class size, teacher salary scale, and test scores. Visit New Jersey Family to begin your search for great schools in our part of the state. For parents considering a move outside New Jersey, visit SchoolMatch or GreatSchools.  

Children in kindergarten and first grade are especially vulnerable to stress during a move. Source: American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry

2. Try to move before the start of school. 

The school transition is easier for children if they begin the school year in their new school. Other children new to the school will also be starting at the beginning of the year.     

3. Be patient. 

Be respectful of your child’s worries and feelings, and be extra patient with her during the first few days of school. Reassure her that she will soon feel comfortable in the new school.   

4. Try to visit the school. 

Set up a meeting with school administrators, not only to establish a rapport with the principal, but also to obtain specific information, such as school hours, lunch policy, bus arrangements, the school calendar, and most importantly, program options. 

5. Review records from your child’s current school. 

Looking at records before they are sent to a new school will assure you that they are accurate, complete, and up-to-date, and include grades for the most recent marking period.   

6. Help your child meet other children. 

Be flexible about allowing your child to invite new friends to your house, even if boxes are still unpacked and the curtains are not yet hung. 

Dr. Shore, a psychologist, teaches part-time at Rutgers. He has authored six books and created a film series on bullying. Visit his website or email him.

Have your children changed schools? How were you able to help ease the transition? Please share.