Sometimes circumstances mean you need to move. Immediately. Thirty-six million Americans move every year and millions of moves do not coincide with the academic calendar. If your child will be starting in the middle of the school year, consider yourself lucky. Moving in the middle of the school year can be a great thing.
The Pros of Starting In the Middle of the School 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.
The Cons of 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.
5 Ways to Help Your Child Adjust to a New School After a Move
Teach your child the basics of making a good first impression (SEA).
He should smile, make eye contact, and keep his arms uncrossed. By doing these three simple steps, he will let others know he is open to making new friends. If he seems concerned about introducing himself, tell him to start with SEA. Other kids will approach him to start conversations when he does these three basic things.
Talk to the School.
Speak with your child’s teacher to let him know that you are new to the area. Before you move, ask for previous class assignments so that your child can feel comfortable with the amount and type of work he will be doing. If possible, ask for a tour of the school so your child can imagine himself in the new space. It is often the unknown that our children fear the most. If he can visualize his school, classroom, and cafeteria, it can feel less scary on the first day.
Ask to Be Paired Up with a Host Family.
Ask the school to introduce you to another family at the school. The family can be a useful resource for any logistical or personal questions you may have about the school or neighborhood. Even more importantly, your child will be able to recognize one familiar face before starting at her new school.
Be the Support Your Child Needs.
One woman I interviewed went to five different schools between grade school and college. When I asked her how she and her five younger brothers coped, she explained, “I had a really stable family life. I could have dysfunction during the day as the new kid, but I always came home to stability.” If you’re not particularly excited about this move, you might be dealing with some negative feelings of your own. It’s important to remember, though, that you are moving because it’s in the best interest of the family. Look at the move as a positive opportunity and share that optimism with your child.
Understand that Anger is Normal.
Give your child the time and space she needs to grieve. Your child may demonstrate her pain through tears or fits of anger. Give her time to adjust to the change. Try not to take it personally as an assault on you or your decision to move. Pondering the “what-ifs” of moving is not helpful. Recognize that this move was for the good of the entire family and that your job is to continue to be positive in the face of any challenges.
Did you choose to move in the middle of the academic year or wait until the school year was over? Were you happy with your decision or would you do it differently next time?