The best way to help your children transition is to start early. Take a few weeks before school starts up to give your kids an opportunity to meet new people and prepare for the upcoming year.
1. Arrange for a tour.
Most schools are happy to meet with new parents and students to walk you through the facilities. Make this appointment away from regular class hours so your child can familiarize him or herself with the school and ask any (potentially) embarrassing questions about the upcoming year.
2. Ask for a handbook.
Every school has a handbook of sorts—a guide to class hours, holidays, extracurricular activities, and school policies. Get your hands on one of these and read through it. Look for activities or events your child might enjoy and highlight the positive in these. You can also look for sports teams outside the school.
3. Get out in the community.
During the summer, community events for kids tend to be everywhere. Day camps, street fairs, public swimming pools, block parties—you might be unsure at the idea of getting out there and meeting people already, but it’s a good time to make the effort. Your child will appreciate having a few friendly faces in the crowd on the first day of school. (The library is also a good default option for this kind of thing, since you’re sure to find local kids roaming the shelves for their summer reading.)
4. Make each school day special.
A new outfit, a shiny pair of shoes, a note in their backpack, a promise to visit the zoo after school one day—any small thing you can do to brighten up the day is worthwhile. Give your child something to look forward to, and they’re likely to be more positive about the day as a whole.
5. Provide opportunities.
Even though you might not be ready to open your home to guests just yet or you might be feeling overwhelmed trying to make friends of your own, try to provide opportunities for your kids to mingle. Allow them to invite someone over for a special dinner or participate in neighborhood rituals to encourage socialization.
6. Give them space and time.
In your desire to see your child comfortable and settled, you might push too hard or make them feel like they’re failing at making friends fast enough. Experts suggest that getting used to a new school can take up to six weeks for younger kids (longer for teenagers), so be patient. They’ll get there.
Above all else, be sure and listen to your child. Kids may need to talk through their anxiety or verbalize their frustrations, and constantly pushing them to accept the changes may only make the situation worse. Listen more than you talk and be sure to show your child all the love and attention they need during this difficult time.