Starting at a new school is an enormous move for your child, but you can help your child change schools successfully. Children get used to familiar routines and it will take them some time to get used to things being different.
Children can change school for a variety of reasons:
- Moving home
- Transition from infants to juniors, or primary to secondary school
- Friendship issues or bullying at their previous school
- Specific educational needs
- Unhappiness with their previous school
- Behavioural difficulties
You can help your child change schools, even if they’ve had negative experiences in the past.
1: Saying goodbye to their old school
When something ends, it’s good to get closure and a sense of it having finished. You can help your child focus on positive experiences, rather than concentrating on any problems that have caused the move to happen.
- Write a card to their classmates and any staff they felt close to
- Create a memory book full of special items and messages
- Make a photo album
- Swap contact details with friends
Finding a sense of closure is an important step in moving on and looking forward to starting a fresh experience at a new school.
2: Moving on after a negative experience
If your child has had a previous negative experience, they may feel very reluctant to start somewhere new. But they may also feel relieved and look forward to the opportunity to start somewhere fresh. It’s normal for them to feel a mixture of both emotions.
Talk positively about the new school. Remind your child of things they are good at to boost their self-esteem. Avoid focusing on unpleasant experiences by rephrasing to the positives. For example, instead of saying, “I don’t think there will be bullies at this school,” you could say, “I think you’ll make great friendships here.”
3: Preparing for a new school
Get your child involved in preparing for their new school wherever possible. They might enjoy choosing new items like water bottles and bags, and trying on their uniform. Go to visit the new school if possible and practise the route they’ll travel.
Be open to them sharing any fears with you. Don’t tell them not to worry. Instead, empathise and listen. You don’t need to have all the answers or solve their problems for them.
4: Settling in
You want this to be a positive experience, but be prepared for them to take a while to settle into their new school. It’s common for children to complain of feeling ill, have mood swings, and tell you they hate school while they’re getting used to the changes.
Expect them to be exhausted for the first couple of weeks. They have to learn new routines, names, locations, and the school’s expectations. Plan quiet activities after school to give them time to unwind and expect them to be more tired and hungry than usual.
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