Moving is hard. Even as an adult it’s hard to pack up your life and head to a new area, so you can imagine how hard it is for children. Children of military families move much more often than their civilian counterparts.
Changing schools is scary, everything is new, things are done differently, and they don’t know anybody. Most military children move up to nine times during their school age years. Some kids adjust really well. Some need a little more encouragement.
Changing schools makes kids anxious and afraid, and while that’s a completely normal reaction, we want to do everything we can to help make it easy for them.
Here are a few tips on how to help your military child adjust to a new school.
Check it with the School Liaison Officer
This representative will be available at your installations’s family services (ACS, Fleet and Family Services, MCCS, etc). He or she can let you know additional details about different schools and requirements. The role of the School Liaison Officer (SLO) is to provide information, resources, and referrals for military families. SLOs provide school transition assistance and act as a support during deployments. SLOs work to keep you and your children’s educational goals consistent, even through various duty stations.
Show them the area
A good first step in acclimating your child to a new school is to show them the area. This serves as a great tool to remind them that they won’t be missing out on anything from the old area. Places like parks, movie theaters, restaurants, and malls are perfect stops on the tour of the town! Children (and let’s face it, adults) can get anxious about moving to a new area, fearing that everything they have will be gone. By showing them all the familiar places and new exciting things all in one go, they may find it easier to adjust. It can take a long time to truly feel like a new area is a home, or a new school is theirs, so be patient and understanding. Having the support of their family will make the process go much more smoothly for everyone.
Keep in touch with old friends
A big part of the problem with moving to new school is feeling like your child leaving behind friendships they’ve had for the majority of their lives. It’s important to make new friends, but help them keep in contact with old ones too! Distance will make any friendship more difficult, so you’ll want to help your child understand that some friends will come and go, but the best friends will always be together no matter how far. Retaining contact with some old friends will be a great way to help your child remember that just because they moved doesn’t mean the rest of the world is gone forever.
Sign up for extracurricular activities
Making new friends is hard, but making friends in an area or school where you don’t know anybody is even harder! Research local clubs, sports, or other extracurricular activities with your child, and help them decide on one or two to join. Being a part of a group with similar interests is by far the best way to find new friends. Once they have one friend, suddenly they’ll be surrounded by them! No matter what else happens, no matter where they end up, having friends makes it feel like home.
Parents need to make friends too
Parents need a social life as well. As soon as you put yourself out there in meeting new people, your child’s social life may become more active as well. Ask your new friends if they have kids. Take the initiative to see if other parents with kids your age would like to do a playdate. Join Facebook groups or meetup.com to meet other people of similar interests. Meet other with coworkers or fellow students outside of the work or school.
Whether it’s a move across the country or just across town, changing schools is a huge hurdle for military children to overcome. Don’t let old friends drift away, but don’t let them deny new ones because they miss their old home. Being supportive and following these tips will make a huge difference in your child’s ability to acclimate to the new area.