Starting A New School
Overcoming Those First-Day Jitters
by Emily Horton
If you've moved from another city and your child will be attending an entirely new school system, be as supportive as possible. Leaving friends behind can be daunting. Offer enthusiasm about the change, and do research on the new school and area activities to instill optimism in your child. If he or she has some exciting prospects to look forward to in the new school, the changes will seem exciting and fresh rather than terrifying.
First-day jitters are inevitable even when heading back to the same school, but when the school is unfamiliar, fears are magnified. Simple preparation measures can eliminate unnecessary stress during the first few days when the focus should be on making friends and getting a firm handle on classes.
Make sure that if your child is entering a new school, you visit the school and its surroundings well in advance. If you have a schedule in hand, walk from class to class; if there will be a locker available, be sure to learn the combination. "Not being able to access your locker on the first day of school can just ruin the entire day," says Roswell High School Principal Ed Spurka.
Adjusting to a jump within a school system can be disorienting, as well. "One of a student's greatest challenges is getting used to high school," Spurka says. "They're handling a lot more responsibility, and there's a lot more freedom."
One key to emphasize with your kids is tha t they should not be afraid to ask questions or share concerns about school. "We don't want parents calling and asking the questions. Kids should be the ones asking the questions," Spurka notes.
Keeping the communication lines open is vital, and your kids almost always will have something to say. "Talk at dinner time about what went on that day," Spurka advises. "And work with them on their homework. The number one reason for ninth-grade failure is not doing homework."
Perhaps the most essential element of adjusting to a new school is getting involved in a school activity. Whether it's a sports team, club or extra-curricular activity, making sure your child is participating in something enjoyable with other kids can make an enormous difference in how he or she adjusts. "It really makes them feel a part of the school," Spurka says.
Most importantly, offer your child continued support; make him or her aware that you realize the difficulty of adjusting to a new school. He or she will be able to carve a niche for him or herself much more easily with a helping hand.