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Friday, August 19, 2011

How to Help Your Child Adjust to a New School

My second daughter started at a new school this last year. She was in 6th grade. The only friend she had was a neighbor girl who was in 7th grade. After the initial coolness of being the new girl wore off things got hard. She didn't know anyone in her grade and the school was small. Most of the friendships were already established making it difficult for her to break in to a friend group. Her older friend didn't seem to have much time for my daughter.  She felt lost.

As a result, her report card got progressively worse and she felt more and more inadequate. The further behind she got in her school work the more hopeless she felt. She finally just gave up,  rationalizing that it was too late to turn things around.

Next year I'll know the things I wish I had known this year. Next year, I'll be a better support for her. I know she'll do better too, because she's the kind of girls who can't stand to be bad at something.

Whether your child is starting kindergarten or just changing schools (elementary to junior high or junior high to high school counts), here's my advice for parents with a child starting at a new school:

  • Get to know the teachers and school administrators. When there are problems (and there will be), they'll already know you and the conversations will be more productive.
  • Be patient. The transition will take a good year for everyone to get adjusted.
  • Your child may exhibit uncharacteristic behavior in a new situation and with a different social setting. Expect that you'll need to be more available for them with extra love and a listening ear. Don't always rush in to fix a situation. Let them try. If it seems like it won't turn around, step in carefully and let them know.
  • Create a schedule for your child to include homework time, reading time, and chilling out time. The consistency in their after-school schedule will help balance out the unsteadiness they feel in their school schedule.
  • Make sure they feel your confidence in them. Ask them if there is one thing they are nervous about and listen. Encourage them and tell them how proud of them you and that you'll be there for them if it gets rough.
Change can be difficult, but you and your child can learn to work through it together. If you have a child starting kindergarten, check out this post I wrote for KidSteals.com.

Good luck!

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