A new season often marks new beginnings for many people. If you must deal with changing schools this year -whether it involves transitioning from elementary to high school or moving to a different area or choosing another school-, then it is likely that your children may not welcome this outcome. Changing schools can be a big challenge for students, as they will be required to adapt to a new physical and social environment, also facing the possibility of parting with their best friends.
When changing their school environment, children usually experience:
Separation anxiety: Triggered when people are forced to leave behind their beloved things, places or people. Separation from classmates, friends, teachers or the familiar classroom environment may make children feel that they are “losing” their safety and emotional security. In fact, the potential separation of their best friends may create feelings of loneliness, a sense of having no one around and even a refusal to adapt.
Uncertainty stress: Many questions may arise in their minds when asked to face the prospect of changing schools: “What will the new school be like?”, “Will I like it?”, “Who will my teachers be?” “Will I make new friends easily?”. These are just a few of the multiple concerns that often breed anxiety and insecurity.
Feeling that parents do not count them out: Children, especially younger ones, lack the emotional maturity and logical thinking of adults. Consequently, they may end up feeling that parents do not meet their emotional needs and exclude them, thus making decisions on their own.
All these feelings are perfectly normal in the face of such a big change, and it is important, as parents, to show empathy and respect.
Changing schools: Ηow to help children adapt (tips)
In general, you will have to arm yourself with patience and understanding, while explaining to them that changes are often part of our lives – and most times – they are for our benefit. More specifically:
Listen intently: Spend time with your children and encourage them to share with you their concerns, fears and thoughts about the change that they will be asked to deal with. Listen carefully and assure them that you understand their feelings. It is important to empathize with their emotions and reassure their fears.
Positive point of view: When we have no idea what the future holds, it is possible that stress will dictate all the negative scenarios in our minds. Try to change children’s perspective by helping them focus on the positives. Use arguments in favor of the new school (e.g., better educational conditions, shorter distance from home, sports facilities or art activities, interesting classes, etc.), emphasizing the advantages of making new beginnings.
Help them to establish connections: One way to help children make new friends is to enroll them in an after-school activity. Try to find healthy coping skills since it may be easier for them to connect with other kids through a common interest, such as sports or art. Furthermore, it is particularly important to keep your house open to new classmates. Help them foster their friendships through playdates, taking into consideration that these kinds of “invitations” promote sociability, facilitating mostly introverted kids.
Do not cut children’s bridges with the past abruptly: It is normal to seek out old friends and classmates. Reassure them that they will not have to lose their friends and promise to help them keep these contacts for as long as they wish and need them.
Give time: Children may need time to adjust to a new situation. Do not rush, do not demand immediate acclimatization and do not pressure them.
Observe children’s behavior discreetly: Refusal to go to school, a drop in school performance as well as physical symptoms, such as morning sickness or headaches, are obvious signs that they need your help and support.