Learning to adjust to a new school

PRESENT: Moving from one school to another is always a nerve-wracking time in a child's life, however the right approach can make it less daunting for all.
PRESENT: Moving from one school to another is always a nerve-wracking time in a child's life, however the right approach can make it less daunting for all.

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Starting at a new school can be a daunting time. 

For most students it occurs naturally with the move from primary to secondary school, while for others it might be accompanied by the move to a new suburb or town. 

As if this change isn’t monumental enough in a young life, having to adjust to a new school and form new friendships can just amplify the scariness of the situation.

However with the right support at home and school, nerves of both new students and their parents can be kept to a minimum.

Parenting expert and education consultant Kathy Walker says the emotions you might watch your children experience in the lead up to their first day will depend on their age.

“Generally, whilst all children may feel some nervousness and apprehension, the younger you are, the easiest it is,” she says. 

“This is because you haven't developed true friendship early in your life and are less aware of implications. It also depends on how parents handle it. 

"Usually being positive but not over-talking helps.”

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Kathy says if your child is nervous you should acknowledge their emotions and not try and jolly them out of it. 

“Reassure (them) that starting something new can feel strange and can lead to feeling nervous but may also bring exciting and new things,” she says.

Some practical things you can do in the lead up to the first day include driving past the school and becoming familiar with the grounds and physical nature of school. 

If possible, visit the class and teacher before starting and talk about this new exciting chapter casually, without labouring the point.

Kathy says once the move has occurred, you can ensure the transition is as smooth as possible by keeping channels of communication open and allowing your child to express early emotions that may not all be positive at first. 

“Give your child time,” she advises. 

“Don't pressure them to enjoy it straight away.”

Her advice to teachers for helping a student transition to a new school is to give them a social job, a class and playground buddy.

She says it is also important for teachers to check in with students each morning and after lunch.