Wouldn’t we all like to make our kids’ lives magically full of friends and free of stress? Unfortunately, there is no magic formula for making the transition to a new school totally stress-free. But there are things we can do to help kids cope. Teaching them how to make friends can really help children adjust to a new place. Here are some strategies for helping your kids in a new school.
1. Meet the teacher ahead of time
If it’s practical, arrange a meeting with your child’s new teacher before the first day of class. Most teachers are glad to do this, and if your child sees a familiar person in his teacher, he will feel more relaxed. See if the prospective teacher will meet you both for lunch, or come to your home for a meal. More than one meeting is even better.
2. Visit the school before class begins
Take a tour of the school to get familiar with the layout and possibly meet some of the students. If it’s summer, there may be an official orientation for new students; but it’s better to go as a family or with a parent in a no-pressure visit. Your child will feel a lot less overwhelmed if she knows where her locker, the bathroom, and her classroom are going to be.
3. Keep lines of communication open
Your child needs to feel safe in discussing social problems and joys with you. If you and your child never talk about such things, you may think everything is just fine when it is not. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, and let your child know you are asking because you want to help.
4. Teach basic social skills
It’s easy to take these skills for granted, but your child may not know these things – especially if you have never gone over them. Teach him to look people in the eye, to shake hands, to answer when spoken to, and to introduce himself. Also teach specifics about being a good listener, such as not interrupting and making eye contact while another is speaking. These are skills that will serve your child well in school and in the future.
You can arrange play dates and meetings to teach these things, and take advantage of ones that happen along the way, such as the grocery checkout clerk or the mailman. Keep it relaxed and easy, even game-like at times, because high-pressure situations forced on your child will only make him more anxious.
5. Encourage some group activities
There’s no need to overwhelm your child with a dozen extracurricular activities. But finding something your child can do with others can help socialization. Find out what groups are available at your child’s school – it does not have to be a sport, or a large, organized group (although those are fine). Find something that suits your child’s personality and needs.
Teach and practice socialization, talk to your child about how she’s doing, and the transition to a new school will be more a time of excitement than one of stress.