Sometimes, because of various reasons, it becomes necessary for children to change schools. Irrespective of whether the change of school is a planned or an unplanned event, it can affect their mental health. While most children are able to cope with the change and adjust easily to their new surroundings, some suffer negative experiences like distress, low self-esteem, and a dip in academic performance.
It is important for parents to understand that, in children, changes perceived as positive can create just as much stress as those regarded as negative. Therefore, do not assume that your child is simply throwing a tantrum even when it may seem like things are moving in the right direction.
How do children feel about changing schools?
Coping with a change of school is a challenge for children. While the thought of going to a new school can make children feel excited and eager, it can also give rise to apprehensions like fear of going to an unknown place or not being accepted by peers in the new place. Also, the bittersweet memories of old friends and teachers, and leaving behind a familiar place can make children resist the idea of changing schools.
All these can bring forth an array of negative emotions like stress, anxiety, anger and rebelliousness in a child.
How parents can help their child cope with a change of school
- Be open with your child about your decision to change schools. Discuss the move with him well in advance. This will go a long way in helping him get ready for the change and, thus, reduce the stress reactions.
- If you are changing schools due to academic reasons, try and list out the reasons that made you take the decision. However, to do this, it is important that you have a clear idea of what you need to tell and convince your child. If your child thinks that your decision to change her school is borne out of impulsivity or without concrete reasons, she may resent the idea.
- Allow your child to make an informed choice by making him a part of the decision-making process right from the time you decide about changing schools. If you have made a list of schools from which you would like to choose one, seek your child’s opinion about it as well. Although the final decision is yours, including your child in the process can ease his worries.
- Be enthusiastic about the change. In case of a forced relocation or life-altering circumstances, try to limit the negative comments. For, it will be tough on your child as well.
- Encourage your child to bid a fond farewell to everyone in his old school. Tell him to exchange a few words with all the teachers. You can also ask him to make a scrapbook of memories of his old school. Also, share with your child possible ways of staying in touch with old classmates and friends.
- Listen to your child’s apprehensions about going to the new school and validate her fears. Do not reject them as baseless. Let your child know that it is natural to feel a little scared in these circumstances, but that she will soon get over it.
- Dispel your child’s sense of unease by sharing with him some details of the new school. You can do so by showing him photographs of the campus, visiting the school’s website or even taking him to the new school and showing him around. This will help him form a new perspective about the place. If possible, try to help your child make a friend or two during the admission process. Remember, familiarity eases apprehension to a great extent.
- If your child is very young, take her along with you to the new school and allow her to play in the school’s playground. Doing this a few times before the school begins can create a sense of familiarity and help your child adapt to the new environment.
- Narrating positive experiences from your own life about changing schools and offering words of encouragement would boost the morale of your child and prepare him for the change.
- Once your child begins going to the new school, be available to listen to her experience. Remember, adjusting to the new environment is going to take a while and the first few days can be a bit overwhelming. Showing a positive attitude and expressing confidence in your child’s ability to begin life afresh will give a fillip to her confidence and make her feel better.
We cannot shun change just because it may be unsettling. Therefore, parents should try and develop in their child adequate coping skills to deal with the stress and anxiety that comes with change, rather than avoiding making a change. Remember, changes help children learn to adapt to a new environment, encourage a growth mindset and enrich their life experiences.
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