Helping Your Child Transition to a New School

Author: Alecia Pirulis


Moving can be especially difficult for school-age children. They are leaving behind friends, family, their home, and their school. In front of them, they face a multitude of unknowns: in some cases a new state, often a new city, and usually a new neighborhood. They are moving to a place where everything is different — and they have to go to an unfamiliar school where they could struggle with getting lost, falling behind, or not making friends.

If possible, tour potential schools before you move. Take your child on these walk-throughs so he or she can see the different facilities, offer input, and feel a part of the decision-making process. Once you’ve settled on a school, contact that school and ask them to send a welcome packet – this packet will contain registration information, a school supplies list, clinic forms, bus information, and volunteer opportunities.

If your child is currently involved in after-school activities such as clubs or sports, be sure to ask about similar programs at the new school. If your child is heavily involved in the robotics club or part of the school football team, you’ll want to make sure those opportunities are available. But also ask about other clubs and activities – the new school may offer something different that will interest your child.

Check the school calendar on their website and make note of important dates, such as open house and parent-teacher conference week. You’ll want to attend these, especially as a new member of the community. Not only is it a great way to find out what is happening at the school and with your child, but you can also meet other parents – which could help your child make friends easier.

Make sure the school can meet the needs of your child – especially if they have special needs. If the school doesn’t offer classes designed to meet those needs, ask how they intend to help your child succeed. If you aren’t happy with the special education program, be sure to consider other area schools – both public and private.

Gather all of your child’s records, including report cards and medical forms, and make extra copies of everything. The report cards will help with placing your child appropriately, while the medical forms are necessary for enrollment, extracurricular activities, and summer camps.

Be clear on the school’s rules – especially the dress code. Some schools are device-friendly and allow children to use these in the classroom – other schools are not, and will even suspend a child for bringing these devices to school. If your child has been in a device-friendly school, don’t assume the new one has the same policy. Also, your current school may have a lenient dress code, while the new school is much stricter – be sure to read the student handbook and help your child get a stress-free start at his or her new school.

If possible, arrange a few play dates. Those parents you met at the PTA meeting? Arrange a get-together! It can be at your house or at a nearby park – make it clear that you want parents and children for the visit. While the children are playing, you can establish valuable lines of communication with the parents of your child’s peers. Getting to know other parents will help keep you in the loop – both at school and in the community.

Be patient! Your child may have some trouble at the beginning. Learning the way around a new school, adjusting to new curriculum and teaching styles, making new friends – it all takes time! Be aware that you may experience a few bumps in the road. Stay in touch with the school and address any issues as quickly as possible.