During your children’s school career, there will be many new beginnings they’ll have to face. From those first anxious moments when they wave goodbye to you from the preschool door to when they enter the hallways of a new middle or high school as awkward teenagers, change and resiliency will be key factors in how they handle the stress of any new chapter.
Chat with your child
Keeping an open line of communication is important. Encourage your child to talk about any feelings he is experiencing. Remember that change is stressful not only for you but for your child, as well. He may need to vent those feelings; be patient during this time. Let him know that these feelings are normal. “Be patient—adjustment time for every kid is different,” says Shore, adding that “it will take three to four weeks for most kids to start to feel comfortable.”
Create a sense of community
Feeling a part of things is important for children at every age. You can help by providing chances for your child to make new friends. “Your children will feel more comfortable going to school if they know at least one other student in their class,” Shore says. “If you move during the summer, find out the names of children who live nearby and are the same age as your children. Put aside social inhibition and try to arrange some play dates so your children can meet those children.
Keep the old friends, too. If your child is starting at a new school, parents can help bridge the emotional gap between making new friends and leaving a familiar circle of friends by encouraging kids to keep in touch. This is particularly important for middle and high school children. “This age group places a great importance on their friends and consequently the transition can be harder,” Shore says. “Helping them make and keep those connections is important.” He adds that it’s easy today for kids to stay in touch with friends from other communities thanks to cell phones.
Get the kids involved
Create opportunities for your children to meet others their own age who have similar interests. Some examples include public library and recreation programs, scouting, sports teams, and church groups.
Visit the school
Arrange a visit to the school with your children before school begins, Shore suggests. “You’ll want to find out about school hours, lunch policy, bus arrangements, and the school calendar. Ask if you can have a brief tour of the school. While walking around, make note of other students’ dress so you can help your children dress in a way that helps them feel comfortable.”