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4 Ways to Help Your Child Adapt to a New School

Change can be hard, but with some planning and preparation, school transitions can be smooth and even fun.

Change can be hard, but with some planning and preparation, school transitions can be smooth and even fun.

In today's world, there seem to be endless reasons for changing schools. The obvious ones, of course, are moving out of a school zone or district, moving to a new city or state, or graduating to an older school. Less obvious reasons, yet still common, are changing schools for academic reasons, to seek special needs services, or to pursue a sport that isn't offered at the current school.

Whatever the reason, changing schools is a scenario that many families face — sometimes multiple times while raising children. These transitions can cause anxiety and stress for both the parents and the child, taking a toll on family life. Here are some ways to make changing schools a smooth transition for everyone.

1. Do Your Homework

First, do your homework! Make sure you have completely vetted and researched the new school you are looking at or applying to. This means making appointments with administrators and teachers, scheduling tours, and observing classrooms. You as the parent should know as much as possible about the school before ever bringing your children to visit. This will help them feel like you are in control and have all the information you need so that you can focus on helping them get to know their new environment.

2. Make a Presentation

Secondly, make a presentation! Show your children pictures of the school or, if possible, drive by the school several times before the first day. If the school has a website, go online with your children and show them things like pictures of the principal and teachers, a map of the school, photos of events, school mascots, and anything else that will help your children get a visual of what to expect.

3. Rehearse the Daily Schedule

Next, rehearse the daily schedule. Walk through what a whole day might look like for your children. Start with the morning routine at home — laying out clothes, book bags, and lunches. Go through transportation expectations, such as the carpool line, the bus stop, or parking and walking your children to their classrooms. Talk about what the teacher might say and where they will put their things. More than likely, your children will have attended an open house or "Meet the Teacher" day and know some of the teacher's expectations.

Rehearse what it will be like to walk in line, go through a lunch line, eat in the cafeteria, and play at recess. Give some strategies for how to talk to new friends, play with others, and include kids who may want to play. Have your children practice introducing themselves so it will be easier to make new friends and learn names. Go through the whole day all the way until they get home. This will help your children understand what a typical day at their new school will look and feel like.

4. Run Through Scenarios

Lastly, run through some scenarios ... the "what if" questions your child may have. What if I get lost? What if I forget something? What if no one plays with me? What if my teacher is mean? What if I get sick? Answer these questions with real plans of action. Reassure them that while all of these things can happen, they are in a safe environment with many teachers and leaders who want to help them. If they don't make a friend the first day, there will be lots of days to meet lots of kids.

Change can be hard, but with some planning and preparation, school transitions can be smooth and even fun. After all — everyone wants to know the new kid!

This article is courtesy of ParentLife Magazine.

Find more resource for parenting and kids at Lifeway's Kids Ministry 101.

Jana Magruder serves as the Director of Kids Ministry Publishing at LifeWay and co-hosts the Kids Ministry 101 blog. She has a passion for kids ministry, education, and curriculum writing. She lives in Nashville, Tenn. with her husband and three children.