When families move, the top concern for parents is how the kids will adjust to a different environment. If the move is after the start of the academic year, parents worry even more. I want to assure you that a move in the middle of the school year can be a positive experience for your child.
As the author of The Art of Happy Moving: How to Declutter, Pack, and Start Over While Maintaining Your Sanity and Finding Happiness, I host educational family sessions to help kids feel more confident before starting at a new school. You can use the tools below to help your child switch schools mid-year with confidence and a smile.
Learn the secrets of welcoming body language
Depending on your child’s age, you can teach him the secrets of welcoming body language using either the SNEAK attack or SEA. For the SNEAK attack, here’s what you need to know:
With SEA, you can ask your child to focus on smiling, making eye contact, and keeping his arms open. I typically teach SEA to younger kids because neatness doesn’t matter as much when you are five years old and kids know to be kind. (It’s us adults that forget sometimes.)
Welcoming body language attracts friends and you don’t have to say a word. When you smile, you show others that you are friendly. When you make eye contact, you create a connection and you demonstrate that you are interested and attentive. When you keep your arms open and by your side, you look approachable and open to conversation. If you cross your arms and take on a defensive posture, you signal to the world that you want to be left alone.
Prepare two ice breakers
If your child masters the SNEAK attack or SEA, much of the work is already done. Kids at school will come to her and introduce themselves. However, if she wants to prepare herself a step further, she can equip herself with two ice breakers – a compliment or a question about her surroundings.
First, your daughter can compliment a classmate. She could say, “Hi! I like your drawing. How’d you do that?” or “Nice shot. Mind if I join your game?” Second, she can use her surroundings as a cue and ask a question. For example, your daughter might say, “Hi! I moved here from Seattle last week. Can you tell me where the cafeteria is?” or “I’m new here and I missed the homework assignment. Can you show me where to find the class assignments?” These ice breakers will lead to more conversations with classmates.
Practice at home to help your child switch schools mid-year
To help your child through a mid-year move to a new school, practice role-play at home. The sillier you can make it, the better. Show your son what it looks like when you meet someone and then you don’t smile. Cross your arms. Avoid eye contact. Talk about it and then do role reversals where one of you uses open body language and the other uses closed body language.
Practice open body language when you run errands together. When you are out at the grocery store, ask your daughter to smile at the cashier, make eye contact and say “hello.” Every bit of practice helps build a child’s confidence. If you are looking for more elaborate role-play scenarios, you can find some in my book, The Art of Happy Moving.
Find out what you’ve missed in school so far
Your child will feel less stressed about school if you can find out what he or she may have missed so far this year. A benefit of switching schools mid-year is that the teacher knows your child is new, and she will help make the transition as smooth as possible.
So, don’t be shy about asking each teacher for a class syllabus and a sample of previous assignments. Ask the school about afterschool clubs or sports teams and ask if registration is still open for your child. Request a school tour so that your child can see the cafeteria and the bathrooms before the first day of school. If possible, ask your school to connect you with another family who may be able to answer questions for you. Besides, it’s nice to know one familiar face at school (both for you and your child).
Recognize that you’re a hot commodity
I still remember when Nicholas Rosenfeld came to my school in Miami, FL, in 2nd grade. I had never met anyone from Nebraska before and he was exotic. I couldn’t wait to get to know him better.
Parents, please tell your kids this: You are a hot commodity. Your classmates are going to LOVE that there is a new kid at school. You are interesting. You are mysterious. And, with your body language and small talk skills, other kids will know you are friendly, kind, and approachable.
Almost 7 million families move in the U.S. every year and people move throughout the seasons. Your child is not alone in starting school in the middle of the academic year. I’ve talked to many families about their mid-year moves and the unanimous sentiment (so far) is that it proved to be an excellent time to move with the kids.
About the Author
Ali Wenzke, author of The Art of Happy Moving: How to Declutter, Pack, and Start Over While Maintaining Your Sanity and Finding Happiness, & Family Workshop Host in Chicago to help kids adjust to a new school