Anita Newhouse September 21, 2018

5 Ways to Help Your Child Adjust to a New School

As realtors (and many of us also parents), this is a question we hear a lot throughout the year: “Should I move my child before school starts or during the middle of the year?”

So first, let’s just admit that moving at all is one of the top 10 stressors in life. We also know that, according to The Art of Happy Moving, 36 million Americans move every year, and millions of moves do not coincide with the academic calendar.

For most of us, it might feel easier to move our children over the summer so they can start the fall school year fresh. But the truth is that moving in the middle of the year can also be an option.

The Pros and Cons

Author Ali Wenzke shared her insights on the pros and cons of starting in the middle of the year.

“I’ve interviewed many parents who started their children at a new school after the academic year started. Unanimously, the mid-year move worked well for these families. For one, teachers feel settled by this point. The teachers know their students and the classroom dynamic. They can give the new student extra attention. It’s different than the beginning of the school year when the teacher’s whole class is an unknown. Another benefit is that the other students will be excited for a change. Everyone will recognize a new face, so they’ll be more likely to reach out and introduce themselves to your child.”

But Wenzke also points out that there can be drawbacks to starting after the school year begins.

“Moving in the middle of the school year can be advantageous from a social standpoint, but it may be difficult academically. Even if the new curriculum isn’t harder, the fact that it’s different can pose a challenge for your child. Your child may also not enjoy being the center of attention as the “new kid” at school, but you can help him through the transition with a few tips.”

Here are five ways to make it easier for your child to adjust to a move and a new school.

  1. Arrange a School Visit

First, no matter what time of the year it is, arrange a school visit. Call the school and ask to meet with the principal and the teachers in your child’s grade. While you are there, find out if the school or the district has any resources for making this type of transition easier for a child. Also, be sure to take your child on a tour of the building and, if they are younger, bring them back to play on the playground outside of school hours. Being familiar with his or her surroundings will make your child feel more at ease.

  1. Find a Host Family

If the school is open to the idea, ask them to pair your family with a host family that can be a resource and a child who can offer a friendly word of encouragement in the hallways.

  1. Explore Extracurriculars

Does your child have a special interest? Find out what types of sports, hobbies, clubs, and organizations are available and popular, both at school and outside of school. This is a great way for your child to meet new friends.

  1. Stay Positive

Be optimistic and help your child feel good about the new school. Look for new opportunities and the benefits that might be offered at the new school and talk about them. Do they have longer recesses than at the past school, a better computer lab, an air conditioned building? Pointing out the pluses can go a long way with kids.

  1. Allow Emotions

Let your child express their sadness or anger about starting a new school. None of us really love change. So don’t be surprised if the move is filled with emotion. Remain positive and help your child get engaged and stay engaged at home, at school, and in the new community.

If you and your child have recently moved to the Iowa City area, welcome! Check out this article on ways you can find your tribe in your new community.