8 tips to help your child when starting at a new school
Whether you’re moving to China or it’s your child’s first day of elementary/high school, starting at a new school can be daunting. Children often worry about whether they will fit in at a new school, what their peers will be like, and so much more. Fortunately, there are some things you can do before moving a child to a different school to ease their concerns and help them get comfortable in their new environment. This Pacific Prime China article offers 8 tips to help with the transition.
1. Talk about it
The first thing you’ll want to do is get a conversation going. This will allow your child to voice any concerns and get things off their chest. Start by asking questions like:
- What excites you most about starting at a new school?
- Is there anything you’re worried about?
Remember that the way you approach going to a new school will affect how your child sees it. Be excited and curious, as well as compassionate and understanding of their worries and fears. Let your child know that school is a place where they can learn new things and make new friends.
2. Involve them in the process
If you’re arriving at the start of a school year then attend the school orientation as a family. Otherwise, you could arrange for a tour around the campus. It can be beneficial for older children to get an idea of their new environment ahead of time, from their drop-off point to the locker and classrooms. Even knowing where the bathrooms and cafeteria are can ease worries.
If you have young children, try to visit the new school a few times before starting. You can also speak with the guidance counselor if you think your child could benefit from a ‘buddy’ to help them at the start.
Need help choosing the right school? Check out our expat’s guide to choosing the right school in China.
3. Look for future friends
It’s easy to find friends if you know where to look for them. If you have time before the school year starts, you could sign your child up for classes and camps in the area – just don’t go overboard. The idea is to encourage your child to participate in one or two activities that interest them and could help them make friends too.
The playground is a great place to meet other children and parents as well. Depending on where you’re moving to in China, information could be limited for the expat community. If you see another parent in town, take advantage of the opportunity and find out what your options are. You might even get a new playdate or friend out of it.
4. Shop for school supplies
Remember being excited about choosing your own school supplies? There’s something special about letting a child pick their backpack, binder, stationary, and lunchbox. The process makes children feel more confident about starting school and more in control of the overall experience. Since children in China wear uniforms to school, personally selected backpacks and supplies can give your child a sense of individuality as well.
Most schools offer a list of necessary school supplies for lower grade students, but you can always ask to prepare ahead of time. Middle and high school students should carry a notebook, pen, and pencil on the first day.
5. Prep the night before
Nothing can throw off the first day like rushing in the morning to get everything sorted. To make the morning as smooth as possible, organize everything you can the night before. Prepare uniforms, make sure supplies are ready to go in their backpack, and maybe even make lunch or snacks.
Set the alarm a bit earlier than usual so everyone has time to get ready in a calm manner and leave for school on time. Make sure your child gets plenty of sleep too.
6. Make the first day of school special
Do you have any first day of school traditions or ones that you remember from being a kid? Traditions can make the first day of school even more special. They don’t have to be anything big either – just enough to make the day more of a celebration.
You could prepare a special healthy breakfast or make plans to do something fun after school. Give your child extra tender loving care and minimize any changes at home to avoid additional stress or confusion.
7. Take your child to school
Even if your child will be walking or taking the bus to elementary school regularly, you may still want to go with them on the first day. Especially if your little one seems very nervous.
Young children may also be shy to speak with new people. By taking your child to school on the first day, you can help them get settled in the classroom and introduce them to the teacher.
8. Keep an eye out
Once your child has started at a new school, you should watch for any signs of stress. Behavior changes could be showing you that they need some help adjusting to their new school. For example, watch if they:
- Throw tantrums whenever you mention school
- Repeatedly refuse to go to school
- Have meltdowns when getting ready for school
- Suffer from separation anxiety and need you around more
- Change their eating or sleeping habits
If you believe your child is having trouble transitioning, it’s essential to discuss this with them. It’s also recommended to meet with their teachers and school administrators or guidance counselors to get to the root of your child’s discomfort.
The most important thing to do throughout the entire process of starting at a new school is to remind your child that they are not alone and that many others feel exactly the same way. Help them see that a new school is the start of a brand new, exciting chapter with so many possibilities to learn, grow, and connect.
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