Getting your child off on the right foot at his new school
In an ideal world, you get settled into your new home before the school year starts. Your child has made friends in the neighborhood, has visited the school with you to get acquainted, and has a backpack full of school supplies ready to go.
In the real world, job transfers come in the middle of the school year, your home search takes awhile, and you and your child are overwhelmed trying to adapt to a new home, a new workplace, and a new school all at the same time.
Whether your move is perfectly timed or not, there are a few things you can do to ease your child’s entry into a new school.
1. Control what you can.
Most people fear change, and that goes double for little people. Your child may be frightened by the completely new environment he finds himself in. It’s your job to help him adjust. If you can keep the routine the same as before, do it.
Try to keep your regular meal times. A normally perky child can have a meltdown on an empty stomach. Let the kids choose what they want. You may be anxious to explore restaurants and new cuisine in your new locale, but if your child wants the same old mac-and-cheese from a box, don’t make an issue of it right now.
Be sure to keep “comfort” items accessible. You may be living out of boxes for a while, but make sure your child’s favorite toys, books, CDs, and videos are unpacked and ready to go as soon as you arrive.
2. Get your Ducks in a row.
Organization is the key to a smooth transition. Do arrange a tour before your child starts his new school. (See previous post.) Offer quiet reassurance (not a rah-rah pep talk) if he expresses fear.
Before the first day, you should know the following:
- How will your child get to school and what is the best route?
- What is the lunch procedure? Discuss with your child whether he wants to bring his own lunch and make sure you have his favorites in the fridge.
- What school supplies are needed? Shopping for brand new pencils, pens, paper, and notebooks supplies gets a child excited about starting school.
- What are the school rules about discipline, going off-campus, cell phones? What is the dress code?
Getting these answers ahead of time eases the anxiety of not knowing what to expect.
3. Communicate, communicate, communicate.
Does this happen in your house? You drag yourself home from the office, your mind still on your to-do list. You hug your child and ask him, “How was school today?” He mumbles, “Fine,” and goes back to his video game.
Make a special effort to show your interest by asking specific questions like, “What was the most fun thing you did today?” or “Did anybody get in trouble in math class today?” Then, really listen. You can finish unpacking those boxes later.