Going to a new school is one of the biggest changes, and challenges, faced by children of divorcing parents. Along with adjusting to a new family structure – which may include new homes – your child will also have to get used to a different educational environment. Here are 5 ways you can help ease your child’s transition to their new school.
- Inform teachers about the divorce. Email teachers ahead of time to let them know them know how the divorce is impacting your child. This will give teachers a “heads-up” on any emotional issues your child is dealing with, as well as complex family dynamics. If teachers know what to expect, they’re better able to facilitate your child’s adjustment to a new school. On a legal note, if you need to share any custody or protective orders that affect who may pick your child up from school or be contacted in case of emergency, get in touch directly with the guidance counselor and/or principal to facilitate staff knowledge of this information and schools need to enforce.
- Familiarize your child with the school ahead of time. Having to get used to new buildings, corridors, and classrooms can overwhelm a child who already has to navigate new psychological terrain. If the school doesn’t have a formal orientation period, see if you can tour the facility before the first day of classes. Knowing where they’ll be studying, eating lunch, and hanging out during recess will make your child feel more grounded.
- Socialize with families at the new school. “Will I make friends?” is a top concern of children who need to attend a new school after divorce. One of the best ways to help your child bond with classmates is for you to bond with the other parents. Take every opportunity to attend school functions, chat up parents at birthday parties, and host playdates. When your child sees you making friends, he’ll have an easier time as well.
- Get involved in parent activities at school. Your child will feel more comfortable at his new school if you become part of the community: joining the PTA, volunteering for committees, serving hot lunch. Modeling how to contribute to a community will help your child learn to do the same.
- Normalize your child’s feelings about the change in school. Children who are naturally resilient may not have big feelings about going to a new school, while those who have difficulty with transitions may need a lot of support to adjust to the change. Assure your child that their feelings are normal and that you are available to listen whenever they need to talk. Don’t minimize their emotions by telling them everything’s going to be fine. Validate how scary things feel, assure them they’ll get through it, and ask what you do can do to help.
With support, kids can make this adjustment and be happy and fulfilled in their new school setting.
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