This year, my son will be transitioning from elementary to middle school. This is going to be a tremendous amount of change for him, as he goes into a gifted magnet program in a general education middle school. There are bound to be hurdles that I cannot anticipate, and worries that I won't be able to soothe. If your child is also transitioning to a new environment, you're likely a little worried, too — and looking for signs your child is adjusting well to their school.
Big life changes are hard for everyone, but for a child who hasn't yet learned to navigate their own emotions, it can mean total upheaval. Thankfully, most kids do just fine through the transition from one childcare environment or school to another, once they form new habits and routines, according to research printed in the Australasian Journal of Early Childhood. Even if it is a struggle at first, the study reported that children are surprisingly resilient creatures, and they find ways to meet their needs if they are provided with proper support by their parents and from the school itself.
I contacted psychologists to garner a better understanding of how you can intuit if your child is adjusting well to their new environment. These are just a few general signs experts say can signify smooth sailing.
1. They Feel Motivated
Dr. Jeff Nalin, Psy.D., a psychologist who specializes in child and teen anxiety and depression, is the founder and chief clinical officer of teen treatment center Paradigm Malibu. He tells Romper that the signs your child is doing well are usually pretty straight forward.
"When a child is settling in well at school, he or she tends to be motivated, upbeat, and expresses excitement about the next school day," Nalin says. "Children adjusting well exude confidence and often act independently, needing no coaxing to get ready for school."
2. They Are Pumped
Nalin says that your kid's attitude is a huge indicator of their adjustment levels. "Another sign that children are doing well is when they are excited and animated as they talk about the school day and what they achieved, learned, and experienced." Think of all the times your children come bouncing home — that is one of the biggest tells.
3. Their Body Language Speaks Volumes
How kids move in their space says a lot about them, too. Nalin tells Romper that "children who are happy and well adjusted tend to be carefree, and it shows in their body language. They appear relaxed and at ease in their surroundings." When a child is having trouble adjusting, they can sometimes seem withdrawn. Their shoulders may stoop, or they might pull into themselves.
4. They Tell You
Dr. April J. Lisbon, a veteran school psychologist and autism coach strategist, tells Romper that kids who are settling in well will often straight-up tell you they like their school. Is your child rattling on a mile a minute about what they did at school and who their new BFF is? Are they excited about activities and their teacher? Kids are expressive little things.
5. They're Eager
Lisbon notes that kids who are doing well might also be eager for the weekend to be over, and ready to get back to school. While that may seem like a bit of a stretch for any kid, she says it does happen. Think of the kid who sets out their clothes for the day, and has their bag packed the night before. They're ready to go, and that is a good indicator that they're happy.
6. Their Grades Will Show It
Psychiatrist Carole Lieberman, MD, tells Romper that if your child is adjusting well in their new school, they're more likely to finish their homework, and their grades will often show it. It might not be all A's, but they will be performing the best that they can.
7. There Will Be Open Communication Between The School & Parents
Lisbon notes that most of the time a good adjustment period will include open communication between the parents and the school. The teachers and school assistants will help the transition go smoothly and calmly.
Every child will show different indicators that they are adjusting well to their new environments. If you notice any of these above signs, it usually means things are off to a great start, and that's excellent news — both for your child, and for you.