Whether you’ve just been assigned to a new base–or your kids are changing schools for any reason–as a parent, it’s normal to be concerned about how your kids adjust. They have new teachers, a new building to navigate, new classes, and new friends to make.
I’ve been there: When my kids started kindergarten and first-grade last year, we were brand new in our town. They didn’t know a single other kid in school, and, to make it worse, they couldn’t tour the school beforehand because of COVID (parents weren’t allowed into the school all school year, which means I still haven’t been in their school building!).
Here are eight lessons I learned last year as a mom in a new town, new neighborhood, and new school:
1. Go to as many events beforehand and during the first month as possible.
Go to everything you’re invited to attend. This year, schools are resuming school tours for new kids, and in-person Back to School nights. Allowing your child to meet the teacher and see the school early on, if possible, is the best way to help him/her adjust.
2. Make friends with other parents.
Come early to school pickup and strike up conversations with other parents waiting for the same grade. This is the fastest way to get your child a playdate and help your child start feeling accepted.
3. Use the school directory.
Most schools have a directory that lists all of the kids in the class, their parents’ names, and their emails and phone numbers. When your child talks about someone he/she is friends with in class, send an email to the parent and see if you can get the kids together on the weekend. I’ve done this many times (without ever having met the parent first), and the invitation is always warmly received.
4. Join the PTA – and sign up for a committee.
The PTA always has the best scoop on what’s going on at school. Don’t just join the PTA – sign up to chair or co-chair a committee. Typically, PTAs have committees for volunteer activities, gift drives, book drives, book fairs, science fairs, teacher appreciations, and more. This is a fast way to get to know other parents, and find out some more about the school. Everything you know can ultimately help your child better adjust.
5. Sign up to be a “class parent”.
I won’t lie, this is a lot of work, but it’s the absolute best way to help your child. Class parents get a lot of one-on-one time with the teacher, and they get all the inside info on what’s going on inside the classroom. You’ll get to be present at certain school events that not all parents can be present at, which could be comforting to your younger children. If you have more than one child and only have time to sign up for one classroom, sign up for the teacher you like the most. I found it really rewarding to coordinate teacher appreciation events, because I was so grateful for the time, love and attention my daughter’s teacher put into the class.
6. Let your child play after pick-up
A lot of children hang around after pick-up to play, either at the school playground or just on the front grass. Even if you can only stay a few minutes, let your child run around with other kids for a bit. This is a great way to observe them and see who they are friends with, whether they are shy or outgoing, and how they are adjusting.
7. Find out who lives in your neighborhood
Find out which kids in your child’s grade live within walking distance. These are likely to become your child’s closest friends. You’ll run into each other walking the dog, walking through the neighborhood, or at the local coffee shop. These friendships can be the best your family makes.
8. Be the place kids want to play
If you can, invest in a playset, a trampoline, a finished basement, or something that makes other kids eager to come over to your house (it might even just be having a dog). If kids have a good time at your house and want to come back, you’re one step closer to helping your child make long-lasting friends.
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