How to Help Your Child Adjust to a New School

While some may be excited for the year ahead, coming back to school after summer can be nerve-wracking for many children. Be it upcoming exams, different classes or new routines, this time can be a source of worry. If your child is starting a brand-new school, this can be an even bigger transition, whether it’s stepping up to secondary school or changing schools for another reason. In this article, we’ll offer tips on how you can help your child adjust to this period so that they can start at their new school with confidence.

  1. Provide an Explanation

For younger children especially, moving schools can be confusing if it’s not at a time they or you would not expect. You may have to move your child for unforeseen circumstances such as a work opportunity or a change in family dynamics, and these can be complicated and difficult conversations to have. Children deserve honesty, so try and explain in the most simplistic way, using age-appropriate language as to why this move is necessary.

  1. Tour the School

Sometimes the biggest worry about starting a new school is getting lost, especially if your child is making the jump from primary to secondary school. In this transition, you and your child would have likely had the opportunity to tour the school already.

For other moves, make sure there’s a chance for you and your child to look around their new school and familiarise themselves with their surroundings before they begin. Talking with them as you walk through the building and pointing out what they will be learning in each room, with guidance from staff, can help your child to be more confident to potentially ask questions for themselves as you look around.

  1. Meet Teachers

Similarly, the adjustment may be a little easier if your child has familiar faces they can turn to in those first few weeks (or longer). See if you can arrange for a few introductions to not only their teacher/s but also other staff who they’ll work closely with before beginning.

  1. Encourage New Friendships

Your child’s new school might even have a buddy system for them to be introduced to a peer to help them settle in. Additionally, as your child gets through the first weeks in their new school, consider asking them about any friends they’re making. Maybe you could see if they would like you to arrange something outside of school with their new friends such as a trip to the cinema, or you could speak to parents about arranging a playdate for younger children.

Perhaps your child might struggle more socially or need some encouragement to make new friends. One way to help them get involved is by suggesting they sign up for after-school clubs that sound interesting to them to help to meet like-minded friends.

  1. Validate Feelings

Transitions can be tough, even for adults. And regardless of how your child is feeling about this time, their emotions are valid. Try and communicate with them that you might not be in their exact situation, you can understand why they’re feeling the way they are. From time to time, we all experience emotions that can be overwhelming but with your support, they can get through them.

  1. Spot the Signs

The period before starting a new school , as well as the first few weeks or months, can be an even more crucial time to keep an eye on your child’s behaviour. You know your child better than anyone else, and maybe they find it more difficult to talk about their feelings. They might not have verbally expressed that they’re feeling nervous and worried about something in particular, but their actions may demonstrate otherwise.

If you notice your child or teen become more withdrawn, not show interest in usual hobbies, or generally have lower energy than usual, these can often be some telltale signs that they could be struggling.

  1. Try to Keep Routines Predictable

Control the controllables as much as you can. A loss of control can be a trigger for anxiety for many, especially for children who are often used to being in a routine. One way to approach the adjustment period to a new school can be to look at the things that will be staying the same. Will you still be leaving at the same time? Does the school day finish at the same time? Will the family be eating dinner together still when everyone is home?

  1. Maintain Connections

Perhaps your child is nervous about potentially missing their friends as they adjust to a new school. But as a parent, you can support them in maintaining connections with existing friendships and assuring them that a new school does not mean the end of these. If your child is younger, then consider keeping in touch with parents and arranging a schedule for when your children can meet. If you have moved further away, you might need to arrange transport for your teen to catch up with friends in advance. Technology can also be to your child’s advantage, so encourage them to keep in touch via video calls and text messages if they’re old enough.