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Switching schools? Here are some ways to help your child adjust

Carolyn Rahaman is a professional SSAT tutor and contributing writer for Varsity Tutors. She holds a Master's degree in Learning Sciences from Northwestern University.

It can be difficult to adjust to a new school, as many people know firsthand. After all, when your student changes schools, she leaves behind both a well-developed support system and a sense of academic and social familiarity. She must befriend children who have already formed bonds with one another, and she must settle into classes and clubs that are likely to utilize unfamiliar routines. However, you can help your child through this challenging transition. How?

Include her in the process

For most students, it is not their choice to change schools, and they may feel as though this act has been done to them. Children may not have a voice in the decision to move to a new town or to switch schools, but they can participate in some parts of the process. Older students can choose what courses they will take, while younger children can select their school supplies or the contents of their lunches. Share all the information you know about your student's new school and encourage your child to ask questions. In this way, you can return the agency that she may feel she lacks, thus bolstering her confidence.

Help her explore the school

You will soon realize that there are a number of simple, concrete things your student does not know about her new school. Where are the bathrooms, the lockers and the cafeteria? Where will the bus pick her up and drop her off? What is her class schedule? How long are class periods, and when is lunch? These questions can pester your child, but they are easily answered by a school tour or a visit to the school website. Arrange for your student to meet her teacher before her first day (if possible), and ensure she has the correct school supplies. In this way, you can help to set her mind at ease.

Encourage her to make friends

This is one of the most anxiety-provoking aspects of changing schools. Therefore, instead of allowing your child to worry that "no one will like me," encourage her to join several extracurricular activities where she will meet students who share her interests. Also encourage your child to introduce herself to the students sitting next to her on the bus or in class. If she is brave enough to begin a conversation, other children are likely to respond positively. If your student huddles in on herself and shuts others out, her new peers may be less likely to approach her.

Talk about her concerns

Invite your child to talk to you about her concerns, and listen to her. Do not trivialize your student's fears. Instead, brainstorm solutions to whatever scenarios she raises. Tell her that you know this is difficult, but you have faith that she is brave and smart and kind, and she will ultimately overcome her fears. Reassure her that all new students feel anxious about fitting in, and remind her of other times in her life when she has successfully faced such challenges and changes.

For more tips and strategies to help your student succeed in school, visit www.varsitytutors.com.

Image: tienvijftien/Flickr
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