Helping Kids Adjust to a New School
Tips to Ease the Transition
July 23, 2015 by Mark Dye
Part of military life is being moved to a new location every few years. Such upheaval can be stressful enough for grown ups—for kids who will have to adjust to a new school as well as a new home, it can be life altering. While there is no way to make such change absolutely perfect, there are some ways to help your children adjust to their new surroundings.
Moving is going to put the entire family on edge—even the pets, who can sense when their owners are stressed out—so it’s important to find the positive and even humorous in the situation.
Highlight the new experiences your kids will have at their new school, the fun in meeting new friends, and the excitement of learning new things. If your children are older, maybe remind them that a new school means a new start and new opportunities. Basically, try to find and highlight as many silver linings as possible, even going so far as sitting down together and making a list of them.
Do some research on the Internet to learn about the new school and the city, including info like its mascot and history. Also look at what activities the new school has, its location relative to your house (e.g., will your kids ride a bus or be able to walk?), and even Google street view so they know what it looks like.
Give them some control
Younger kids actually tend to handle such changes better than older ones, but no matter the age, let them make some decisions along the way. Maybe allow them to participate in a new sport or try out something like band. You might even consider taking them shopping for their first-day-of-school outfit so they can feel confident in how they look on that first day. The key is to help them feel as though they are part of the process, rather than just being swept along with it.
If the new school is run by the Department of Defense, the transition will most likely be easier, as the teachers, staff, and students are all aware of the mobile nature of military life. Even many civilian schools near military bases will be familiar with the struggles kids face after a PCS, so that can often make things easier.
Regardless, you’ll want to contact the school ahead of time and speak with your child’s teacher, principal, and even counselors if the move has been particularly stressful. Find out from them what resources they have available to ease the transition, and what you can also do to help the school help your children. Everyone should work as a team to make the process as painless as possible.
If you or your military spouse is leaving the service and will be moving to a non-military town, it is vital that you contact the school to let them know. Odds are they have few, if any, children in similar situations and they might not be prepared to help ease your kid into his or her new class. But by speaking with the staff ahead of time you can help prepare them if they are needed to help with the transition.
Throughout the process, remember to acknowledge your kids feelings about such a huge change to their lives. Frustration, excitement, even outright anger are all normal things to feel during this time. But with some patience and planning, you can make the transition just a little bit easier.