The first few weeks of school can be trying enough, but particularly so for newcomers who are moving from across town or across the country. Although it’s easy to advise “just give it time,” those aren’t particularly comforting words to the teary kindergartner or the middle-schooler who’s flipping out over the prospect of having not a single friend.
“Along with big changes come big feelings,” said Debbie Glasser, a clinical psychologist who moved her family from Florida to Richmond, Va., about seven years ago and experienced the changes she had been counseling others about.
Here are five tools and tactics for coping.
1. Call on expertise.
Glasser said it’s important for parents to make themselves available to their kids as questions and concerns arise and to keep dinner times, bedtimes and other routines consistent.
In doing so, Glasser’s young son gradually weaned himself off sleeping on the floor, she said, but she acknowledged that the youngest kids can find change surprisingly difficult.
2. Visit the school beforehand.
A new school can be scary, but seeing it before the child begins can combat that fear of the unknown.
“Kids worry that they won’t know where the bathroom is or where the lunchroom is,” Glasser said.
Also, parents should inquire whether the school has an “ambassador” or buddy program that pairs a new kid for at least a while with a student who knows the ropes, she said.
3. Use technology to your advantage.
Parents and kids can use Facebook and Listservs to network their way to new friends.
4. Appeal to a child’s sense of adventure.
Glasser said it could help build a little excitement if the parents and kids were to jointly research the new location, through books or the Internet - talking about such attractions as local museums or sports teams.
5. Allow the child to claim his or her room.
The new bedroom is probably the first place that needs to feel like home.
Ask younger kids - maybe even the older ones - to create artwork for their walls, and give them a voice in choosing wall colors and furnishings, Glasser said.
“I’ve had clients design the kids’ rooms with personalized paintings or decals with the kids’ names before they move, so they feel as if it’s theirs,” said Elsa Huxley, a Washington real estate agent.