Transitioning to a new school can be a major source of stress in the life of a child. It is common for children to struggle socially and academically while they are adjusting to a new school. To help a child in this transition, it is vital to understand the challenges and how to help. Additionally, there are unique challenges to transferring to a classical school.
Here are a few things parents can do to help their child through this season of change:
Talk to your child about the possible social challenges.
Many students at a school will already know each other well. It can take time to break into existing friendships. Stay positive in your conversations, and encourage your child to be persistent in making friends. Ask open ended questions to get your child talking about their day at school.
Talking through challenges helps a child's logical left brain connect to their emotional right brain. This connection between logic and emotion helps a child make sense of their situation. This understanding encourages them to press on in the challenge of building new friendships.
Set academic expectations for your child.
There is a transition period in understanding academics in any new school, especially when transitioning into a classical school for the first time. Tell kids it is okay to not grasp everything right away.
There is a learning curve to understanding the way things are done. In a classical school they may be taking new subjects like Latin and Logic. Homework may take longer at first, but the time should decrease after they adjust.
Just show up.
Model building friendships with other parents at the school. Show up to athletic and social events as often as possible. Depending on the size of the school, other parents may not realize you are new. Introduce yourself. Tell people you are new. Sign up to volunteer in whatever ways you can. Serving with others is a quick way to get to know others.
Communicate often and early.
If you are struggling or don’t understand something, reach out to parents, teachers, and administrators. They want to help you.
One of the best ways for students to make friends is involvement in sport and/or fine arts. One of the bonuses of attending a classical school is students are actually encouraged to participate fully in both areas.
Make space for new friendships to grow.
New friendships start at school, but blossom when kids have the opportunity to get together outside of school. Invite your younger child's new friend over to play after school, or encourage your older student to make plans to meet up with a classmate to study, catch a movie, or watch a game or fine arts performance.
Make time to stay after school for kids to play on the sport court and parents to visit, and drop off your Logic student with enough time to chat with friends before classes start.
As a parent, it is a good idea to partner with a school with purposeful strategies for helping new students adjust. Covenant Christian Academy has the following intentional strategies to help students transition to our school:
- Welcome Families: After enrollment, every new family is matched with a current family in their student(s) grades. The current family reaches out to the new family to help them feel welcome. They are also a point of contact for questions or concerns. Welcome families include new families in any grade level summer plans.
- Summer Camp: CCA offers a wide range of summer camps for students. Participating in summer camps is an excellent way to get to know other students before school starts. There are athletic, fine art, and academic camps.
- Summer Socials: School wide socials scheduled in the summer provide opportunities for new families to meet and hang out with other CCA families.
- CCA Road Map: A helpful guide to teach parents all things about Covenant.
- The Big Day: A few days before the first day of school, this all day event includes student orientation, new family orientation, meet the teacher, mini-school, a community meal, and convocation.
- High School Retreats: 9th-12th grade students go on overnight retreats at the beginning of school year to help them connect with each other and start the school year out with intentional community.
- Parent Prayer Groups: Gathering in prayer with other parents is one of the best ways to plug into the school community. Moms (Moms in Prayer) and dads (Watchmen) meet every week during the school year to pray for students, families, and our school.
- Academic Labs: Math and writing labs are open during tutorials for 7th-12th students that need help in these academic areas.
- Culture of Care Initiative: The Culture of Care team partners with parents to care for students struggling with academics, faith, and/or social issues.
At the end the day, change is hard, but it is a part of life. Giving students the tools to deal with change in healthy ways is valuable. They will take these skills with them into their adult lives.