I remember lying awake for hours the night before the first day of school each fall. So many questions were swirling around my brain. What did the year have in store for me? Would my teacher be nice? Would I make friends? Would I be bullied? Was my outfit OK? Could I handle the work? My anxiety was even higher in years when I was starting a brand new school!
Going to a new school is often very scary and difficult for a child. Whether the change is because of a move or getting promoted to the next educational stage, they are leaving behind familiar faces and routines. While they might be excited to start their new adventure, they are likely sad to close the chapter on their old school – and anxious for what is ahead.
Here are some tips to help your child get ready for a new school, regardless of their age.
1. Talk about the new school often.
Tell them stories about your school experiences. Make it a normal and natural part of your conversation. Visit the school’s website together and read about the staff, activities offered, lunch menus and basic facts, such as arrival time and dress code. Drive by the school often. Point it out to younger children, saying, “There’s your new school!” each time you pass by.
2. Acknowledge that changing schools is hard.
Tell your child how excited you are for his new school and that you think he’s going to have a great year, but don’t gloss over the difficulty of the situation. He may feel sad, angry, nervous and afraid. Let him know that it’s OK to feel that way.
Get organized for the new school year with this advice.
3. Let them know what to expect.
If they are entering a new phase, talk about what happens in kindergarten, middle school or high school. Head to the local bookstore or library for books featuring characters in a similar phase. Read them together and talk about what the characters are experiencing.
4. Connect with other students.
Track down families who attend the school already and chat with them about their experiences. Arrange for your child to meet other kids who attend the school, so they have some friendships in the works in advance.
5. Learn about the bus system.
If your child will be taking the bus, help him become familiar with the bus stops, route and rules before the first day. Try to find another child in your neighborhood, so your child has a “buddy” during the first week.
Remember: Your child may need several weeks to feel comfortable in his new school. Continue talking about the change and reassuring your child that it will get easier. Keep the hugs and high fives coming as they adjust. Transitioning to a new school is hard, but your child will survive – and so will you!
This post was originally published in 2014 and has been updated for 2016.