When the decision to move is made, circumstances that caused the relocation are often an additional level of stressors for both kids and parents alike. These other stressors can, and do, impact the emotional reactions your children have to both the news of the move and the process of the move itself. Kids who are in the middle and high school age ranges are especially vulnerable emotionally as they are navigating the path to adulthood. Developmentally, this is a time for increased independence from parents and an increase in the importance of social relationships…and where do these social relationships flourish? Primarily at school.
Anyone who has experienced being “the new kid” either at the beginning, middle or end of a school year can attest to the general “ickyness” of this experience. There are volumes of evidence-based information that directly tie positive school experiences with later success in life-psychologically, socially, emotionally as well as financially. So much of a child’s life is wrapped up in their experience of all aspects of their school life.
Regardless of when the move occurs, the experience of transitioning to a new school can be more positive for children with parental support, patience, persistence, and a little understanding…not to mention a few skills!! First and foremost, being realistic and keeping a positive attitude go a long way toward an eventually successful transition. It will be hard in the face of pre-teen and teen angst and acrimony, but not everything is truly the end of the world as we know it!!
Before your children start the new school, decide what and how much you will share with school personnel about the move and circumstances surrounding it. With older kids, involve them in the conversation and come to a compromise. They may see starting a new school as a new start and not want their teacher or counselor to know they were the “class clown” or the “shy girl”. The character traits are most likely a part of their temperament, but they may be looking to shed the less-than-desirable labels from a “previous life.” While respecting your child’s need for privacy, additional details surrounding the move can help school personnel better support your child through this transition.
If your child will be starting at the beginning of a new school year, make sure to participate in “Meet the Teacher” nights. If you missed the back-to-school event, set an appointment to meet your children’s teachers as well as the school administrator. Getting to know your child’s new school and new teacher(s) is critical to providing a good safety net in times of trouble. Depending on the age of your child and your availability, find opportunities to volunteer at your child’s school. Seeing a familiar, supportive face can help provide a foundation for braving the challenges of being the new kid.
Act sooner rather than later to find new pediatricians and dentists right away and schedule physicals for your kids. Getting medical professionals on board early can help identify when trouble is brewing and the difference between behavior that’s expected and behavior that requires follow up.
Be prepared for bad days and don’t overreact. Stay calm and supportive. Remember that your children don’t yet have the emotional awareness or range of experiences to understand that “this too shall pass.” Talk honestly and openly about feelings and brainstorm coping skills. In addition to your new pediatrician, connect with other school personnel like school counselors or psychologists for ideas.
Re-establish home routines as quickly as possible after a move, including homework expectations and after school activities. Don’t overschedule but provide opportunities for kids to interact socially and find something familiar. Be kind to yourself as well and find other parents that can provide carpool trade off. Having a parental back up plan helps your stress level too!!
And finally (but not unimportant), make sure to free up your own schedule as much as possible to give yourself time to adjust as well as plenty of time to support your children’s transition back to school. Remind them, it’s truly not the end of the world…it just feels that way right now.
For more information about the Moving Families Initiative, please visit www.movingfamiliesinitiative.com.