Help kids adjust to a new school

By: Georgie Binks

Author: Canadian Living


Help kids adjust to a new school

By: Georgie Binks

When Jan Todd, a teacher in Kitchener-Waterloo, Ont., moved her three kids out of Toronto several years ago, they complained about leaving their friends and city, and they didn't want to go to a new school.

Susan Vincent, a Toronto-based human resources consultant, tried to put a positive spin on moving her three children to a new school last year. Although they remained in the same city, the kids were still apprehensive about attending a new school. But Vincent focused on the positive aspects of getting a fresh start. "We presented it as an adventure," she says.

Certainly, parents can understand their children's concerns. Some schools can appear to have a great atmosphere, but the students may have been together since kindergarten. It could be difficult for "outsiders" to feel accepted in such a close-knit environment.

Give children a sense of control
To ease the transition, Brent MacLeod, principal of John Wanless Junior Public School in Toronto, suggests talking about how the child has handled change in the past. "Make him feel he has control of it [the new situation]," he says.

Get them accustomed to the new environment
Next, it's time to familiarize your child with the school. "I think it's a good idea if parents go around with the child and look at the outside of the school first," MacLeod says. Then look at the school at different times to get a better sense of what goes on throughout the day.

Page 1 of 2 -- Learn how to communicate more with your kids (and worry less) on page 2

Ask plenty of questions
McLeod also suggests contacting staff at your child's school towards the end of August. "Chat with the principal," he says. "Maybe there is a time when that child can take a mini-tour of the school. " Find out if a teacher has already been assigned and try to arrange a face-to-face meeting. Learn where the entry doors are and if there is a lunch program. What are the times for entry and dismissal? Are there any first-day-of-school procedures? Will there be a student guide to help children around?

Encourage personal connections
Try to find a friend in the same grade as your child. Vincent's children eased into the new school year with kids they met in the neighbourhood. "When they went to school, two of my kids were going with a buddy," she says.

Nurture life outside of school
Todd believes it's important for kids to keep up with extracurricular programs and enjoy their time away from the classroom. That way, kids have another outlet and their entire day doesn't consist of what happens at school. Vincent did just that. "We were able to maintain their swimming, skating and hockey programs."

Teach them how to meet and greet
MacLeod advises giving your kids a lesson in meeting new people. Explain how to greet others and introduce yourself. Use "entry lines," he says. "You can rehearse them with the child."

Allow room to grow
MacLeod adds not to worry too much. "I would advocate that the parents not come right up to the [school] door everyday," he says. By Grade 2 parents should find a special place away from the main entrance to meet up with children after school.

Make home sweet home
Todd made sure her kids had a special moment to come home to at the end of the first day of school. "We had a little first-day celebration with cupcakes and it gave them a chance to talk to me about their day, the school and the kids," she says.

Both Todd and Vincent say their children had no trouble adjusting to the change. It was just a matter of spending extra time preparing for the first day of school to make it a fun experience.

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Help kids adjust to a new school