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Family Matters Blog: Tips Ease Transition to New School

By Elaine Wilson
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Aug. 18, 2010 – I wrote a blog recently about my lengthy, and sometimes painful, house-hunting efforts. I’m happy to say that stage of my move has come to an end.

My husband and I now are the proud owners of a small, five-bedroom house in Maryland. Now it’s on to the actual move, and the plethora of minutiae that dominate every house purchase, from gathering financial documents to setting up house inspections.

But foremost in my mind are my children. While school starts after Labor Day in Northern Virginia, at my kids’ new school in Maryland, school starts Monday. Due to the time-consuming settlement process, they’re almost certain to miss a few weeks of school, but I’m feeling the time crunch nonetheless. I need to immediately start gathering school supplies and establishing school-time routines and, perhaps most importantly, readying them for a new school.

They’ve only been at their current school for the past two years, but that’s plenty of time to create deep bonds and lasting friendships. I’m hoping they’ll feel positive about this next move, a more permanent one for us, rather than sad about what they’re leaving behind.

I found some great tips on adjusting to a new school on the Great Schools website that can apply to students starting a new school or making the transition to middle or high school.

I hope you find them as helpful as I did:

-- Make it a team effort. If you're choosing between a few schools, talk with your child about what each one has to offer. When it comes time to select specific classes, make sure your child is part of the process.

-- Keep a positive focus. As the first day draws near, begin talking to your children about their expectations, hopes and fears for the upcoming school year. Reassure them that other children are having the same feelings.

-- Encourage school involvement. Though you don't want your children to become over-committed, it's important to encourage participation in one or two activities. They’re more likely to be engaged academically if they feel connected through a school activity, club or sport.

-- Get enough Zs. If your children have enjoyed a vacation of late nights and lazy mornings, getting them up for school on the first day can be difficult. Help make this transition easier by starting their school-year sleep routine a week or two in advance.

-- Take a trial run. Take some time before the start of school to make sure you and your child know where to go and what to do on that first morning. Show your child where the bus stop is or map out the safest walking route to school, avoiding vacant lots and places where there aren't a lot of people. Warn your child to always walk with a friend and scout out safe houses to go to in case of emergency. If possible, visit the classroom ahead of time so your child knows exactly where to go that first day.

-- Stock up on supplies. Make sure you know what school supplies and materials are required. Middle and high school students should bring a notebook and pen or pencil on the first day.

-- Prepare the night before. To avoid the morning rush, organize what you can the night before. Lay out clothes, make a lunch and assemble any supplies your children may need. Be sure to get everyone up extra early so you'll have plenty of time to calmly get ready and get out the door on time.

-- Get a healthy start. Encourage your children to eat a good breakfast and pack a healthy snack to help them get through the day.

-- Accompany your little one. Even if your elementary school children will be riding the bus regularly or walking to school, you may want to take them yourself on the first day, particularly if they seem nervous.

-- Introduce yourselves. Young children often are shy with a new teacher. If you take your child to school on the first day, you might want to go into the classroom and introduce your child to the teacher. Let the teacher know about your child’s special interests or challenges.

I know our military families are all-too familiar with school transitions, and have some great tips to offer as well. If you have any tips on starting a new school, please don’t hesitate to share them.

To comment on this blog, visit the Family Matters website.


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