Advice from an expert on how to discuss changing schools with your child.
As a Licensed Master Social Worker, School Counselor, and parent of three, I am asked daily by other parents for advice on handling difficult subject matters with their children. One issue that can be particularly tricky for parents this time of year is how to discuss changing schools with their child. No matter the reason, moving to a new environment brings up many emotions for everyone. Here are a few things parents should keep in mind during this process.
1. Let your child be involved.
As much as possible, let your child be involved in the decision-making process. If a shadow or visit day is not already a part of the new school’s admission process, ask the school if they will help coordinate a way for your son or daughter to spend some time on campus. The more your child can be familiar with the facilities, meet other students, and get the feel for a regular school day, the better! After the visit, have a conversation. Is your child feeling nervous? What is he or she most excited about?
2. Find a school that supports your child’s interest.
Look at your child’s special interests and find a school with programs that will support these. Whether it is the math club, athletics, drama, or foreign language, finding a smaller group to connect with within the school community will help your child feel more confident in her new environment.
3. Ask the school about support systems for new families.
During your school search, be sure to ask about support systems in place for new students and families, especially if your child is switching schools at a non-traditional entry point. Trinity Episcopal School, for example, has many programs including student buddies, parent ambassadors, play dates for new students, and orientation programs for parents, just to name a few. If possible, ask the school for a grade or class contact list and set up some play dates before the first day of school. Knowing one or two familiar faces can help ease some first day anxiety for your child.
4. Be honest!
Be honest with your child. Let them know it is okay to feel nervous, excited, or anxious (or all of the above) about their new venture. Be open about challenges he or she may experience. If you can, share about a time when you faced a similar experience such as changing jobs, moving to a new town, or going to college. Let your child know he is not alone in his journey.
As you prepare for this new adventure, remind your child of the exciting and wonderful opportunities that await. A new school can offer a chance for a fresh start, new activities, and new friends!