By TMoM Team Member Britney Dent
Being the new kid at school is tough. As a parent, you want to do all you can to help your kids make a smooth transition. There are both social and academic adjustments to consider. I remember my oldest daughter being born, sitting in her high chair, taking her first steps, and now she has headed to high school; the last stop before adulthood. I knew the high school journey would require some specific strategies and skills to help her feel comfortable and supported.
These suggestions will help you assist your kids with finding new friends and coping with unfamiliar surroundings whether switching schools or moving from Middle School to High School.
10 Steps to Take
1. Communicate openly. Leaving their friends behind and starting over at a new school is a big challenge for any young person. Listen to your children. Express empathy for their situation. I sat on the couch with my daughter and discussed the transition to high school.
2. Take a “field trip.” Check out the website of the new school they’ll be attending. Make an appointment to visit the school, talk with school officials, and collect information. Ask questions about the facilities, curriculum, and activity offerings. We visited concerts, sporting events, and open houses at her high school months in advance.
3. Inquire about school resources. Some schools may offer a formal orientation program. Or maybe they offer a buddy program for new students. You can also find out what programs they have for special needs or gifted students, if that applies to your children. Don’t be afraid to email the Principal, Social Worker, Guidance Counselor, or Parent Involvement Coordinator. Also, email coaches of potential sports that your child will play.
4. Teach social skills. Rehearse how to introduce yourself and how to invite others to your house. Take turns role playing with them. Then, have your child test out their new skills after they start their new school. We practiced helping someone pick up books they dropped and practiced asking “get to know you” questions to classmates.
5. Sign up for activities. Dance classes and science camps are a great place to meet many potential friends who share your child’s interests. Browse online and ask your neighbors for suggestions. Your kids may want to resume their old pastimes or try new activities. My daughter took a new found desire for dance team and continued exploring golf. She is also already interested in Key Club and Bible Club, both of which were not offered at her Middle School.
6. Dress the part. Teens are especially fashion conscious. Drop by the most popular store in town and splurge on the trendiest jeans or backpack. It’s okay to thrift some pieces too but be sure your teen feels confident in their wardrobe as they begin high school.
7. Volunteer at your child’s school. Becoming a school volunteer or joining the PTA is a great way to get involved. You’ll get to know other parents and pick up useful suggestions. You will also know all the dates to put on your calendar without waiting for your child to tell you. Many parents volunteer less once their child reaches high school but they need you then more than ever, even if they roll their eyes when you show up!
8. Check in with your child’s teacher. Think beyond grades. Ask the teacher about your child’s adjustment, demeanor, and socialization with others. One or two close friends may be better than rock star popularity. A quick email to the teacher or text on Remind or Class Dojo can alert you to any positive or negative changes in your high schooler.
9. Maintain family rituals. Continue to have family dinners and movie nights. They provide continuity and opportunities for dialogue about the new surroundings. One of my most consistent family traditions is “Frozen Friday” (We have frozen treats each Friday such as fro-yo, sundaes, smoothies, etc.) Even though your teen will be busier due to high school activities it is important to maintain some family traditions.
10. Be a positive role model. Your children pick up on your emotions. Think positive. Celebrate all the wonderful things you discover as you get oriented to your child being in a new school, especially high school. Talk positively about the transition and show enthusiasm even if you’re terrified!
Many teens feel stress when they start high school. Transition can be especially difficult. With a positive attitude, your teen will be able to adjust. Adapting to a new school will build their self-esteem and widen their view of the world. I can’t wait to see what the next 4 years hold for my oldest child.