Moving schools as a kid can be daunting and scary. It can also be daunting as a parent, watching your child walk away into a new place.
My daughter and I are moving across town and she will be starting a new school in a week. It is going to be a tough transition from school to school, but I have a few ideas on how to make the change smoother. The number one priority for me is making sure my daughter feels that moving is an adventure rather than a terrifying reality. I’ve been really positive about the move every time we talk about it (though as we all know, moving can be VERY stressful), and I tell her the fun and new recreational activities and school events she will be a part of in our new neighbourhood.
In a sense I feel like a real estate agent who is selling the neighbourhood to a five-year old. She’s had the official tour of the street, seen the school, and I’m taking her along with us through all the steps so that she feels involved. Oftentimes, I think what scares children is feeling out of control of their own lives. As parents, we take our children from place to place without considering their choices. Though I can’t let my kindergartener make our life decisions, I can make her feel like she is a part of the change. When it comes to my daughter’s new recreation activities, it is her choice. She gets to feel like she is in control.
Another way to help children move is to listen to how they feel about it. I like to get down on my daughter’s level (my little three-footer) and ask her how she is doing. Sharing feelings is empowering and often helps more than faking it. I’ve always asked my daughter how she feels, and it helps her feel better. She has admitted she is sad about leaving her friends at school, for example, and I responded by saying that is okay. I let her know it is perfectly acceptable to express tough emotions and responding to them is the best way to show empathy for her feelings. After discovering she is sad about leaving, I asked her if visiting her friends at her old school would make her feel better. She decided that was a good idea, and felt better after we talked and made a plan.
If kids can’t visit their old school, another method is to give your child a picture of their old school, or to make sure that your child can stay in touch with friends after you part ways. This helps the transition and makes kids feel they aren’t losing their whole lives. I have a pretty social child, but if you have a shy kid then sometimes drawing a picture also helps to communicate the feelings surrounding the move.
Even if all of these steps are taken, the reality is that the first few weeks of school will still be difficult. Change is hard, and being surrounded with new children is a transition. I plan on being very patient with my daughter in the first couple weeks of school, and if she is more testy than usual, it will be easy to see why. With social children, I hope she will make friends. If she is struggling though, planning a playdate with another child or joining activities with other kids from the school might help her along in her adjustment.
At the end of the day, change is a part of life, and all of us big and small have to figure out how to adjust to it. Even though I can still take every step possible to make sure my daughter is protected from feeling the negative side effects of moving, she has to experience it for herself. The best I can do as a mom is to love her and support her however she needs. I know I’ll tell her on the way to school that she is a great little girl and doesn’t need to worry. If she struggles to make friends at first, I’ll sit down and play dolls with her more often than usual to make her feel better. No matter what, she has me and everything else will fall into place naturally if she has support and love by her side.
What do you think is the most important step to take when moving kids from school to school? Let Women’s Post know in the comments below.