Changing schools sounds simple, but it almost never is. Parents should carefully consider whether or not switching schools is the most appropriate option. Sometimes it may be best for parents to sacrifice or delay their own new opportunities in order to ensure stability for teens or adolescents, but that's not always possible or realistic. Some families choose to live separately or to have drastically different schedules in order to maintain school stability for their kids. The most important key to a smooth school switch is early communication.
If parents are considering making life changes that will ultimately affect a young person's circumstances and relationships, it's crucial, and only fair, to allow them to be a part of the change. They need to be in on the discussions and they should be presented with options even if those options are limited. A seemingly forced move or "flash move" from place to place will meet strong resistance and damage relationships or worse. Making quick decisions without acknowledging or validating a teen's emotions or concerns may also result in lasting trust issues.
As soon as parents are seriously considering a change, students need to be brought into the discussion and it needs to be early. Once the decision has been made it is important that families visit new communities and schools often not only touring and visiting but attending events and finding meaningful ways to plug in to the community right away.
Moving schools doesn't have to be a bad thing though. Sometimes it's the best thing --especially if teenagers are having significant social difficulties or have had a traumatic experience. In those circumstances, a fresh start will sometimes meet little resistance. Parents should explain how the move will affect them as well. When parents respect their kids enough to engage in meaningful family discussions, they will meet less resistance and even gain their kids' understanding. Below are 10 Tips for making the transition to a new school smoother and healthier:
10 Tips for a Smooth Transition
1. Communicate early.
2. Include teenagers in the process and as early as possible.
3. Provide teenagers with some choices or options.
4. Commit to maintaining relationships with friends from former schools and set a schedule. It's easy to say you'll visit, but a schedule or calendar showing pending visits will help ease anxiety and protect trust. Social media is great for staying connected with friends, but visits in person are ideal if that's a possibility.
5. Assure your teens that you care about their feelings and show them that you do. Never diminish the importance of friendships and be careful not to suggest that new friends will substitute for old ones.
6. Meet the teachers and administration and discuss any of your concerns in advance if possible meetings that take place at the time of transition may offer the most time and understanding you will ever have to share your concerns or express any needs to specific to your child's learning.
7. If athletics are important to your teenager, be sure to research policies on the eligibility for transfer students to play. Policies and mandates regarding athletics vary from state to state and sometimes even district to district.
8. Once you've made the switch to a new school, talk with and listen to your teen. Ask questions, and take concerns seriously. Let's face it. No one wants to be the new kid, and adjustments are always difficult, but bullies often prey on new kids. Get to know the folks at the new school, and follow-up as necessary.
9. Find new social outlets like church, clubs, scouting, community service, or athletics that offer new social opportunities (You may wish to include those in your planning process).
10. Watch for signs of depression or emotional distress and follow up. If necessary, seek professional advice or counseling for your teen so that they have opportunity to vent.