This article appears in October Family magazine.
From making new friends to finding your math class, changing schools in the middle of the year can be a real challenge for students.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the percentage of Americans moving over a one-year period fell to an all-time low in the United States — 11.2 percent — in 2016, but that still resulted in many children transfering schools in the middle of the year.
Changing schools in a particular grade or year can cause stress and adverse developmental outcomes for children, said Sara Anderson, assistant professor of learning sciences and human development at West Virginia University.
“Friends, family, a new home and a new school make for a host of transitions. Trying to eliminate changes and transitions in other parts of your child’s life may help his or her transition overall and can mitigate stress,” she said. “For example, keep up with dinner and bedtime routines. Make sure that after-school care is set up.”
Know the differences
Parents should be aware that educational requirements may differ across schools, districts and states.
“For elementary school students, there may be a different curriculum or behavior management system. For high school students, make sure that your child’s credits transfer,” Anderson said.
Find out what the consequences are for not completing homework and whether there are study halls.
“Also ask why homework is provided and how frequently it is checked, especially for the younger grades,” she said.
“Try to get to know your neighbors and other parents,” Anderson said. “Perhaps set up playdates for younger children to help solidify new peer networks. And be sure to listen to your child’s needs. Pay attention to behavioral differences, and make a few extra minutes for them during the day to just listen and be there.”
Joining a club or activity could help.
“Often, children do not feel like they belong to their new school. Getting to know new students and joining in activities can help with that transition,” she said.
Clear communication with teachers, counselors and principals is critical.
“Being informed in terms of what the school is like could help you ease the transition for your child,” Anderson said. “For example, asking about the school store, a new activity or a class she had that day could make the new transition feel normal.
If you as a parent also contact the teacher, that opens up a channel for communication that could help if the teacher needs to contact you.
“Bottom line: Changing schools midyear can be stressful, but children are also resilient, especially with supportive family and friends.”