By Raising Children Network
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School age girl in uniform

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Nearly a third of school children move at least once in a three-year period, according to Australian research.
Children sometimes have to move school, either by choice or because of family circumstances. Although this experience can be challenging, you can help make it easier for your child.

Children move schools for many reasons, most often with their families. Your family might be moving for a ‘sea change’, or to follow a parent’s new or seasonal employment. You might be part of a culture or business that needs to be mobile, or part of a community where you need to travel for family reasons or cultural events and ceremonies. Or your family might be part of the armed forces.

Children move schools for other reasons too, including to live with another family member, go into care, or go to boarding school.

Preparing your child for the move

The best thing you can do is prepare your child for the change.

Involve your child as much as you can in the process of moving and choosing schools. This will help your child see the exciting and positive aspects of the move. She will be a lot happier if she knows that her needs are important.

Here are some tips for making the change easier:

  • If possible, discuss the move with your child well in advance.
  • Ask your child to write a list of things he would like to have in his new school and in his new home or neighbourhood.
  • Make a list of the schools in your new area and show it to your child. If your child is old enough, talk about the options with your child.
  • Be enthusiastic about the move yourself.
  • Ask your child to make a list of the things she is looking forward to about her new school.
  • Ask your child to make a list of the things he is worried about. Take time to discuss each issue on the list.
  • If possible, visit the new location and schools with your child.
Talk with your child about moving schools. Listen to your child’s concerns, see the situation through your child’s eyes, and let your child express negative feelings. Sharing any concerns will help you and your child get used to the change.

Before the move: some practical tips

You might like to write a checklist of all the things you need to do as part of the move. Then you can tick them off as you get them done. Here are some suggestions:

  • Research schools in the area you’re moving to.
  • Talk to the principal and teacher of the school your child is leaving.
  • Request or take a collection of your child’s work to bring to the new school.
  • Talk to the principal of the new school.
  • Ask about strategies the new school has for helping new children adjust to the school – a buddy system, for example.
  • If your child has special needs, talk to the new school about its facilities. If you’re moving interstate, your child’s abilities and eligibility for assistance might need to be re-assessed.
  • Make a scrapbook of people, activities and memories from your child’s old school.
  • Make a contact list of friends from your child’s old school and neighbourhood.
  • Plan a farewell party.
  • Donate the old uniform to the school.
  • Buy the new uniform and books if needed.
  • Walk around the grounds and buildings of the new school with your child. This will help your child get to know where the important things are located.
  • Talk to your new neighbours. Perhaps your child can meet some classmates for a playdate before the first day at school.

After the move: helping your child settle in

Once you have relocated, try to make some time to help your child settle in. Here are some ideas:

  • Meet with your child’s new principal and teacher.
  • Set up a review meeting, even within the first week or two, to see how things are going.
  • Get a copy of the weekly timetable so the whole family knows what’s happening!
  • Make sure your child knows about getting to and from school. For example, where you will pick him up and drop him off, or where the buses stop.
  • Check out food and tuckshop arrangements.
Involve yourself as much as you can in your child’s new school. This will help your child feel more comfortable with her new experiences.

Understanding the challenges

Moving can be a very positive experience for the child and the family. But changing schools – whether it’s between suburbs, cities, states or even countries – presents several challenges.

These challenges include the following:

  • The curriculum can differ from state to state, even from school to school.
  • A child could end up repeating topics he learned at his previous school.
  • A language other than English might be used at the new school.
  • A child’s individual needs might not be identified quickly.
  • Friendships left behind might not be replaced so easily.
Children are very adaptable. Most of them will manage moving to a new school quite happily. But you do need to be aware of how your child is feeling about the move. Be ready to help in any way you can.
  • Last updated or reviewed 01-08-2011