Starting at a new school, while exciting, can be challenging. Whether your child is switching schools to find a better fit, moving to a new town, or simply entering a new school after “graduating” from the last, this transition can make many children a bit anxious. Having helped families enter our school in all grades and during all times of year, we understand the transition. We hope the following tips will help your child (and family) feel more confident as you move to a new school.
1. Meet the Teacher
If possible, bring your child to meet his or her teacher and other teachers and administrators your child will see during the school day. Seeing familiar faces in classrooms and hallways will make your child feel more at home. Says a 5th and 6th grade teacher at Mason Prep, “Ask about any opportunities for your child to visit prior to their first day. Many students who are joining us in 5th or 6th grade will come for a shadow day in the spring before beginning school in the fall. This lets them meet their teachers and future classmates, and we love having a head start on getting to know our new students.” Adds Mason Prep Head of School, “Our Assistant Head of School and I frequently set up a transition conference with the parents of a new student prior to the student beginning classes. This is a great way to get to know our new families better and to set the student up for academic success."
2. Map Out Your Route
Make the drive from your home to school several times to get the know the route (and to map out a back-up plan if you live somewhere prone to traffic!). Cementing your route will make the ride seem routine for your child, lessening stress on the first day.
Giving your child opportunities to make friends ahead of beginning school is one of the best ways to ease their transition. Having someone to say hello to in class and eat lunch with can mean the world to a “new kid.” If your child is beginning a new school on the first day of school in the fall, summertime is perfect for making these connections. Starting a new school in the middle of the year can be more of a challenge, but there are still lots of ways to make friends quickly.
3. Discover Summer Opportunities
Ask about any summer programs or camps that are run by the school (or that many students attend). Says Ms. Ashton Hooker, a 5th and 6th grade teacher at Mason Prep, “Our Summer Academy is a wonderful way for our new students to get to know their classmates, teachers, and the school in general. Along with helping to keep students’ academic and study skills sharp, this week provides a relaxed environment for making new friends.” Adds Mr. Kreutner, “If a new student plans to play a sport for which we have a summer camp or training, we try to include that student so he or she can meet future teammates.”
4. Attend New Family Events
Many schools host new student and family events to welcome new families, so be on the lookout for those get-togethers. These are great for meeting not only other families that are new to the school, but also current families that can help navigate all the questions you may have.
5. Encourage Involvement
Encourage your child to participate in clubs and activities. Says Mrs. Roseann Jordan, Assistant Head of School at Mason Prep, “We offer an array of afterschool activities that appeal to different interests – art, sports, science, dance, robotics, and more. These activities are a great way for new students to meet children who share similar interests.”
Be sure to make new friends yourself. Getting to know other parents will mean more opportunities for socializing (for you and your child) and you will have some go-to moms and dads to help with any questions that come up.
6. Lend a Helping Hand
It can be tricky to get to know the parents of your child’s new classmates, but chances are your new school welcomes parental involvement. Volunteer for the Parent Teacher Organization, read a book to your child’s class, help with a class party, or chaperone a field trip – most classrooms are very busy, so there are likely many opportunities to pitch in.
7. Find Carpool Buddies
If you will be taking your child to school, check with the school office about carpooling opportunities. Touching base with families who live nearby can mean not only help with driving, but also new neighborhood friends.
Above all, understand that your new school wants you and your family to feel welcome, so don’t be shy about asking for help. This sentiment is echoed by Mrs. Jordan, “We work very hard to get to know your child and your family before you get here. We encourage questions and maintain an open-door policy – no one expects you to know everything!”