This year, my son will make the big transition from elementary school to middle school. The shift is making all of us a little bit nervous. My son is not the most social of sorts, preferring to limit his interactions with children to those who he already knows and with whom he is comfortable. Over the years, I've learned that it's essential to know how to help your child adjust to their new school based on their temperament, corresponding to the environment they're entering. Having changed schools frequently myself, I can tell you it's no easy thing to do.
There are a few things parents can do to help ease their child's transition that are universal regardless of temperament. You can and should tour the school before the first day. This helps your child avoid the awkward search for the bathroom, library, office, cafeteria, and so on. You should also try to speak with the teachers and the administration. It will help you gauge the overall attitude and environment of the school, as well as preparing them for what to expect with your child (particularly important for parents like me whose children have special needs). You can make sure they get the best night's sleep possible, and you can maintain your morning routine as much as possible. All of these will impact how your child transitions to a new school.
Education Corner noted that each child is unique, but that new school anxiety is experienced by every child at some level. How you prepare your child is going to depend on their temperament. I contacted Montessori elementary teacher Deetz Hanna of South Carolina, and she tells Romper that our children are unique — "Some kids transition easily, and for some it takes them a while to feel comfortable. I think consistency and routine are hugely important in establishing comfort. We fear the unknown, or what it feels like we can’t control."
1. Your Introverted Child
My daughter is extremely introverted. She holds her feelings close to her vest around new people, and has a really difficult time opening up to people she isn't close to. Educational website Knowledge Roundtable wrote that sometimes children require an additional boost of confidence to get themselves out of their head, and into the social arena. The website noted that it helps to teach children to find a "friendly face in the crowd."
Instead of focusing on the student body as a whole, encourage your child to focus on a few children who seem friendly and engaging, without being overwhelming. Maybe they find someone in their homeroom, someone in their gym or art class, or someone with whom they ride the bus. One real friend can mean the difference between a day riddled with social potholes, and a day that is far more relaxed. Hanna says that as a teacher, "If you know a child is having difficulty, you could try and partner them up with someone who makes them comfortable, give them a task to distract them, and make them feel empowered because they are contributing. Or maybe if they need it, just let them have a minute to get comfortable on their own and acclimate at their own rates."
2. Your Wild Child
This was me. I was an outgoing, active, somewhat overwhelming child. I'll be the first to admit — I'm an acquired taste. I know that about myself now, but children lack that sort of self-reflection.
The best thing my mother ever did for me before I transitioned to a new school in sixth grade was to be completely honest with me. She told me that I might not get to be friends with everyone, but my personality was such that people might gravitate toward me, even if we wouldn't be friends. That it would be crucial for me to learn to recognize those who were entertained by my personality, and those who could see the real me. She never tried to stifle my natural inclinations to be "the life of the party," but she did help me to learn how and when this is appropriate.
For a wild child, getting a feel of the school before they enter into it is the most important thing you can do. Learn the rules, the expectations, and the environment. This will have the added benefit of helping you find activities for your wild child that will help them find their community. Is your wild child sporty? Are they artistic? Dramatic? Finding their niche will really help them solidify their place in the school, and help direct their wild nature.
3. Your Little Scholar AKA The High Achiever
This is my son. He is an autistic savant, so his challenges are really complex, but achievement really drives him. Particularly, his love of science, history, and politics. It is hard to get him to open up to kids because he is so laser-focused on the things he can learn, and also, what he can discuss with his teachers. He is the Hermione Granger in most circumstances. Needless to say, this doesn't always make him the most popular.
Easing him in means getting him in the right classes. Speak to the administration and let them know your child is a high achiever, and have the receipts — because they're not going to believe you otherwise. Have report cards, projects, and lists of their independent activities.
Encourage your child to find other high achievers — those who also raise their hand frequently. It's also important for them to know that sometimes it's good to let other children find the answers without your child's instruction.
Get your child involved in extracurriculars that interest them, and have them pick one interesting topic that could be a good entry for them to make new friends. Maybe it's Minecraft, maybe it's baseball stats, maybe it's weather. It will help them immensely to have non-scholarly things to discuss. Because in spite of my son's inclinations, not everyone wants to talk about the potential outcomes of government involvement in Venezuela.
4. The Easy Going Kid
It seems like having an easy-going kid would make the transition simple, and a lot of the time, it is easier. However, easy-going kids also tend to want others to feel just as easy as they normally do, so you might miss the signs that they're distressed. Helping your easy-going kid transition means keeping the line of communication open: asking pointed questions about their day, how they are feeling, and what their day is like. As them about the attitudes in the school, and how it makes them feel. They might be easy breezy, but they're still probably a little anxious.