Back to School as the New Kid on the Block
So your baby is entering elementary school, your (not so) little kid is moving on to middle school, or your awkwardly loveable 8th grader is becoming a high schooler.
These transitions can feel big and scary for both kids and parents.
But remember, schools are full of caring, talented, and well-trained adults who will help make this a great experience for both you and your child.
Here are several ways you can help make this transition go smoothly for everyone involved:
Set a Positive Tone
Like it or not, kids follow their parents’ lead.
If you are anxious about something, they can tell. And if you are super nervous, there is about a 99% chance that your child will also start to feel nervous. If you are enthusiastic about something, the same thing tends to happen.
Talk about school in a Positive Way
If you have a child who tends to be more cautious or anxious about things, acknowledge their worries, but try to bring the conversation back to the positive.
Instead of saying, “You must be so nervous about starting at a new school” (leaving them no opportunity to be anything other than nervous), try saying something along the lines of, “I know sometimes new things are hard for you, but you are going to do great.” Then talk about what you can do to help your son or daughter feel more comfortable.
Get Crafty or Make it a Game
For younger kids, making a list or drawing pictures of all of the things that will be fun at school might be helpful.
Another idea: Before visiting your new school building, you could make a “school building BINGO card” and fill the spaces with things you expect to see while there. Then, when you get home, review your trip and see if you get a BINGO while marking off the spaces. This activity might just help get the conversation going with your little student.
Do Your Homework
As your child prepares to enter this new transition, make sure you know what to expect, too.
Get the Details
Finding out things like what school supplies are needed, school start and end time, bus stop locations and times, lunch procedures, and dress code rules will help both you and your child to be adequately prepared.
Talking about these things will help relieve anxiety, too.
Most schools hold some sort of open house either prior to the start of school or shortly after.
Make attending that open house a priority—it’s a great chance to learn about your child’s school, meet their teacher(s), and meet other families. Talking to parents with older children that have already been through a school building can also be helpful.
Visit the School Before School Starts
Oftentimes, middle and high school students are nervous about getting their locker open, finding their classes, and where to sit at lunch.
A very wise friend of mine told me that she always told her middle and high school kids she would take them to visit their new school as many times as they wanted to before school started. For one of her kids, that meant several visits. For another, none at all. The visits simply involved walking the halls and getting a feel for the layout of the building. This simple act really helped the kids feel comfortable and confident at their new schools.
Another friend of mine has a little one who is quite nervous about starting kindergarten. She contacted the principal and asked for help getting in touch with the other parents of her classmates. They invited the other families to come for a very informal playdate at the school playground. What a smart way to help your little one feel comfortable at his or her new school!
Other families try to connect outside of school using neighborhood or school Facebook groups to get connected. Or by meeting other families through local parenting groups.
Get Your Supplies and Maybe a Haircut
Do what you can to secure school supplies before the first day of school.
New clothes for school aren’t a requirement (unless your school has uniforms) but they can give your student a confidence boost.
A back-to-school kids haircut can do the same.
Take a deep breath, get prepared, and embrace this change. Remember that each new phase of life can be fun and exciting for both you and your kids.