Moving schools: preparing your child

It’s quite common for children to move schools. It’s also normal for children to resist change and feel stressed about going to a new school. So if your child is moving schools, the best thing you can do is prepare your child for the change.

You can do this by involving your child as much as you can in the process of choosing and moving schools. This will help your child see the exciting and positive aspects of the move. He’ll be a lot happier if he knows that his needs are important.

Here are tips for involving your child and making the change easier:

  • If possible, discuss the move with your child well in advance.
  • Be enthusiastic about the move yourself.
  • Ask your child to talk about, draw or make a list of the things she’s looking forward to about going to a new school.
  • Ask your child to talk about, draw or make a list of the things he’s worried about. Take time to discuss each concern.
  • Find out about schools in the area you’re moving to. Make a list of the schools and show it to your child. If your child is old enough, talk about the pros and cons of different schools. If possible, you could visit the new location and schools with your child.
  • Find out whether there are other children moving to the same school as your child. Encourage your child to talk with these children. You might be able to arrange for your child to arrive at school with these children on the first day.
  • If you know family members or friends who’ve changed schools recently, encourage them to share their experiences with your child.
If you talk with your child about moving schools, and let your child express her concerns or negative feelings, it’ll help you see the situation through your child’s eyes. Letting your child see how you’re managing your own feelings about the move will be reassuring and help your child get used to the change.

Before moving schools: some practical tips

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

Your child’s old school and community

  • Talk to the principal and teachers of the school your child is leaving.
  • Request or make a portfolio of your child’s work to take to the new school.
  • Make a digital journal or 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.
  • Share your new home address with your child’s close friends. You could give them pre-addressed and stamped envelopes so that they can write to your child. Older children can stay in touch by email, text or social media.
  • Plan a farewell gathering with close friends.
  • Donate your child’s old uniform to the school’s uniform pool.

Your child’s new school and community

  • Talk to the principal of the new school. You could ask about the school’s strategies for helping new children adjust to the school – a buddy system, for example.
  • Buy the new uniform and books if you need to.
  • 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. Your child might even be able to spend a day in the school before you move.
  • Visit the after-school care facilities if your child will be using them.
  • Make sure your child knows how to get to and from school – for example, where you’ll pick him up and drop him off, which way to walk if he’s walking, or where the bus stops or train stations are.
  • Talk to your new neighbours or your child’s new teacher. Perhaps your child can meet some classmates before her first day at the new school.
  • If English isn’t your or your child’s first language, ask the school about support programs and services that can help.
If your child has additional needs, talk to the new school about its facilities and support programs. If you’re moving interstate or from overseas, your child’s abilities and eligibility for support might need to be checked. You can read more about school for children with autism spectrum disorder and school for children with disability.

After moving schools: helping your child settle in

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

  • Meet with your child’s new principal, teacher or year coordinator. You might like to set up a review meeting, even within the first week or two, to see how things are going.
  • Make sure your child has the right equipment and clothes – for example, sports uniform on sports day. Children are most focused on fitting in, and this can help.
  • If possible, get a copy of your child’s weekly timetable so the whole family knows what’s happening and what your child needs each day.
  • Find out about the school canteen, library, sporting fields and other school facilities.
  • Find out whether the school offers extracurricular activities that your child might enjoy and how to sign up for these.
You can help your child get the most out of school by building relationships with teachers, other parents and students from the very first day. It’s a good idea to get involved with school activities and functions for families whenever you can.

Moving schools: understanding the challenges

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

These challenges include the following:

  • A child could end up repeating topics he learned at his previous school or missing out on topics that have already been covered at the new school.
  • A different language might be used at the new school, if you’re moving countries.
  • 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.