What newness awaits your child this school year?
For many children, the start of school is exciting and greatly anticipated. But for others, it means uncertainty and change as they head to a new school, a new city, or a new teacher.
The thought of having new teachers, classrooms and friends can be a bit daunting to even the most confident child. But there are ways parents can help prepare their kids for the changes.
Validate Your Child’s Concerns
Don’t assume that the newness excites your child. Ask how they are feeling about the change and listen to their concerns. Don’t minimize them or brush them off, but instead say something like “I know that being new is hard and I understand your fears, but the newness will wear off and you will feel at home quickly, I’m sure.”
This conversation is a great opportunity to talk with your child about what bothers them, what they fear, and what can be done to help them feel better about the new environment.
Tour the School, Meet the Teacher
To help your child feel more confident on the first day, check the school out beforehand. Show them around and be sure they understand where they will be picked up.
Meeting the teacher ahead of time can help put your child at ease. Let the teacher know about your child’s apprehensions. You may learn that your child’s teacher has resources to help you help your child. They’ve likely helped out many other children who feel new.
Keep the Old Routine
Try to keep your morning and evening routines the same, even though they are in a different school. Structure and familiarity put kids at ease and will help them adapt to the change.
Be Sure Your Child Gets Adequate Sleep
If your child is stressed from the new circumstances, they may have problems sleeping. Kids ages 6-13 need nine to 11 hours of sleep at night. A well-rested child handles anxiety better and will be more likely to adapt quicker.
Help your child get a good night’s sleep by limiting their screen time before bed, establishing a bedtime routine, encouraging them to get 60 minutes of exercise per day, limiting caffeine consumption, and encouraging calm activities before bed. It’s also a good idea to start the school routine a week before school actually starts so that they are in a groove.
Give Your Kids Some Control
One reason that kids are fearful when going to a new school is that they feel like they’ve lost all control. Give them some of that control back by allowing them to make choices over some part of the process. Even if the control is small, such as choosing school clothes or supplies, it can show them that their opinion matters and that can help give them feel a little more stable in the midst of the uncertainty.
Be Extra Present For Your Kids
As your child enters a new experience, try being extra present for them. Instead of letting them ride the bus home the first day, pick them up yourself and take them for ice cream. Talk about their day and find out what they liked about the new school or teacher. Spend some extra time with them after dinner, playing a game or reading with them and use it as a chance to learn more about how their day went.
Your child may need the extra time for a few days or even a couple of weeks until they are feeling more secure and comfortable in their new school surroundings. Don’t assume that just because they aren’t voicing discontent, it doesn’t mean that all is well. Allow extra time in your afternoon or evening for those quality conversations to happen so that your child has time to loosen up and talk as you gently prod and ask questions.
Although you can help kids get used to a new school, you can’t necessarily do it for them or rearrange things to make their lives easier. Fortunately, children are resilient and with your love and understanding, they will navigate the newness and settle into a comfortable routine.