Written by: Stéphanie Deslauriers
Some school transitions are unavoidable yet foreseeable. This is the case when your child starts kindergarten, middle school or high school.
Although these transitions are stressful, they remain part of every student’s educational path. Visits, orientation, admission exams and so forth are likely and in some cases mandatory for these transitions. However, they make it easier for the child to adjust to the many changes that come with a new school: the learning environment, the route to and from school, the grounds, the rules, the teachers and staff, the other students, and so much more.
Often, kids will fear losing their friends and being unable to make new ones at their future school. Elementary and secondary school-age children have relationships and their social life becomes more important as they grow older.
Also, a change of school in the middle of the year often results from a move to a new neighbourhood. This may be the outcome of a separation or a job change and these events alone are quite nerve-wracking, both for kids and their parents. A child might have to change schools after being expelled, an event likely preceded by several difficulties.
The change of school thus results from several stress factors, in addition to being a destabilizing upheaval that’s difficult to manage in itself.
For starters, talk to your child about the implications of this transition without offering up more details than they ask for or need to know. If you feel ill-equipped as a parent to do this, you should seek professional help. In Quebec, a CLSC usually offers the services of social workers who can help.
Next, it can be reassuring for your child (and you) to visit the new school before the first day to meet the principal and homeroom teacher. Take advantage of this visit to ask for a guided tour: where is the cafeteria? The daycare? The lockers? The offices of staff who can help your child, if need be?
This will give you and your child a little peace of mind. It will help your child get a few bearings while seeing you interact with adults who will become significant figures. By seeing that you trust these people, your child will have more ease doing so as well.
On the first day of school, you could show support by waiting for the bus with your child. After school, take the time to ask about his or her day; encourage your child to share and express what he or she liked, didn’t like, or any unexpected surprises. You can also ask what made them proud. In short, the goal is to bring your child see the positives of this new experience they didn’t necessarily want.
Finally, show empathy; these kinds of changes are never easy. Imagine you had to change jobs without being asked. You would undoubtedly be anxious and stressed before the first day and, slowly, would become familiar with this new reality which would eventually become your everyday life.
Good luck with your transition!