As the end of summer approaches, millions of American kids will be feeling the back-to-school blues, but the most acute cases may be found among those kids whose families moved over the summer. Starting over in a new school can be tough, but there are a number of things parents can do to ease the transition.
After all, moving isn't all about house hunting, researching property tax rates, and comparing adjustable with fixed mortgage rates. A move involves both business and family considerations, and one of the central family considerations is making sure your children are positioned to succeed and be happy in their new schools.
Here are some ideas for things to do throughout the relocation process to ease the transition for your kids:
- Research things about the new area that your kids would like. You may have chosen your new location voluntarily, or it may have been forced upon you by a job relocation. In either case, you need to figure out what the positives would be from your children's perspective, and highlight those things to them. This will start to break down the fear of the unknown that is natural in moving to a new area, and give your kids some aspects of the move they can look forward to.
- Involve your kids in the decision-making process. While it has to be clear that the grown-ups will make the final choices, the more your kids can be involved in the decision-making process, the more they are likely to buy into the final decision. Even very young children can be asked what they think on house-hunting visits. Elementary and middle school kids can be asked to look up information about the new area on the Internet, so they have a chance to discover local attractions and attributes on their own. As for older kids, besides giving them input into the type of house and neighborhood you choose, you can also use the process as a teaching opportunity about the business of owning a home. Explain how buying and selling a house works, and let them see how you compare mortgage rates, make an offer on a property, and take care of other details of the transaction.
- Iron out all the school registration issues in advance. Don't leave this till the last minute, because if there are any delays or glitches, it could reinforce a child's feeling of being an outsider at the new school. According to KidsHealth.org, documentation needed for the registration process may include a birth certificate, most recent report card or school transcript, and medical records.
- Get your children used to the transportation procedure. Whether it's walking, catching a school bus, or being driven, do a dry run so the kids know what to expect, and so you can get the timing down to make sure the kids aren't late for their first day of school.
- Introduce your children to the school and its personnel before Day One. The Maryland School Mental Health Alliance suggests that besides letting the kids get an advance look at the school itself, you should give them an opportunity to establish personal connections by meeting with teachers and administrators if possible. Also, seeing a parent's involvement will help create a positive first impression on those school officials.
- Try to help your kids meet schoolmates in advance. If you see kids of a similar age in your new neighborhood, stop by the house to introduce yourself and your kids to these families. This will probably work best with young kids - teens and tweens might find it a little mortifying.
- Prompt your children to communicate their experiences with starting the new school. Kids often try to keep up a "business as usual" front even when they are under stress. Make an extra effort to get them to open up about everything from coursework to lunches, but especially teachers and fellow students so you can see what they like and don't like about their new environment.
- Follow up with teachers. KidsHealth.org reports that teachers feel it can take children about six week to settle into a new school, so sometime around the six-week mark would be a good time to meet with teachers to see you your child is getting along.
Amidst all the pressing details of securing the best mortgage rates and closing on a house, it can be easy to lose sight of one of the most important factors in making any move a success: helping your children adapt to their new environment. By giving this issue some attention before, during, and after the move, you'll not only help your children through the transition, but with your efforts you'll also remind them about how much you care.