Changing Schools: What Parents Need to Know
There are many reasons why you might consider seeking out a new school for your child. Maybe you’ve moved to a new area or your child isn’t happy at their current school. While changing schools isn’t always an easy decision, there are several steps you can take to help make the transition an easier one for your child.
The parent-child dilemma when it comes to changing schools
As with many other big decisions, parents and children might not always see eye to eye. When parents want their child to change schools due to a physical move or for academic or social reasons the child doesn’t agree with, resistance and conflict may ensue. In other cases, the child might want to change schools because they don’t like their teacher or have friendship issues, but their parents might not agree.
Many parents wonder how long they should persevere at a school if their child isn’t happy there or if they themselves have issues with the school. Educational and Developmental Psychologist Dr Kimberley O’Brien recommends addressing the issues with the school administrators and the child’s teacher before making any snap decisions.
“Once you’ve brought the issues up, give the school about three months to resolve them,” says Dr Kimberley. “If things haven’t changed by then, you’ll know you’ve done everything you could and that it’s time to move on."
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How can changing schools affect your child?
Changing schools can affect your child's academic results because of differences in the curriculum and teaching styles. Your child may be ahead of or behind the rest of their new class. It may also take your child time to adapt to a new style of teaching.
A new school means that your child needs to make new friends, which can be anxiety-provoking. Establishing new friendships can be challenging for some children, especially if the new school's social landscape is different.
Changing schools also comes with significant changes in daily routines, including commuting to school and extracurricular activities. Some children struggle when trying to adjust to new environments and ways of doing things.
While adjusting may take time, if the new school seems like a good fit for you and your child, don't let the prospect of some transitional hiccups prevent you from making a change you believe will have long-term benefits.
How to make the transition easier for your child
Here are five tips to help make the transition to a new school as smooth and stress-free as possible.
1. Get involved
Developing a positive relationship with the new school - including administrators, counsellors, teachers and other parents - will help your child feel like they’re part of the school community. You’ll also gain insight into how your child is coping if you have connections with the people who spend time with your child every day.
You can get involved in school activities - whether it's by volunteering in the tuckshop, helping out at working bees or attending school social events - to get to know the students and parents your child interacts with. It's also a good idea to stay updated by signing up for school newsletters and social media and attending school information events.
2. Encourage extracurricular activities
Extracurricular activities that your child is already familiar with - such as sports teams, choirs and clubs - are an excellent way to identify like-minded children at their new school. If the new school doesn't offer your child's preferred activities, you can encourage your child to try new things to expand their horizons.
Participating in various extracurricular activities can also help promote connectedness, social inclusion and academic achievement.
3. Observe behavioural and mood changes
Pay attention to your child's mood and behavioural changes before and during the transition, such as trouble focusing, oversleeping or sleeping too little, irritability and isolating themselves from other people.
These early signs of behaviour change can help you know when your child is struggling with adjusting to their new environment. Encourage your child to express their emotions and concerns and help them explore ways to overcome or cope with the issues they're facing.
4. Plan and involve your child in the process
Planning will help your child feel more secure and better prepared to change schools. Involve your child in the process and ask them which questions they would like answered before they start. Maybe your child wants to know about extracurricular activities or how many kids will be in their year group.
Children may also worry about not knowing where the bathrooms are or where to go at lunchtime. Get to know as many details as possible ahead of time and try to visit the school several times before the first day.
5. Seek professional help
If behavioural and mood changes persist or your child seems reluctant to go to school, they may need psychological support.
Contact us today and the Quirky Kid Team will offer your child much-needed support to better cope with change and have a more straightforward and smooth transition.
View article references
- Baker, J. A. (2006). Contributions of teacher-child relationships in positive school adjustment during elementary school. Journal of School Psychology, 44 (3) pp. 211-229. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jsp.2006.02.002.
- Chen, W.; Gregory, A. (2009). Parental Involvement as a Protective Factor during the Transition to High School. Journal of Educational Research, 103 (1) pp. 53-62