How can parents and students thrive in a new school environment?  A new school environment can be a result of a student going from middle school to high school, or the entire family relocating to a different state.  Today, and especially in Central Florida, there are many schools that parents can choose from for their children.  If your child is switching schools due to a personal choice for him or herself, or yourself, different dynamics will apply.  The following are five things to consider in order to thrive in school transition!

After I completed my freshman year of high school in Mobile, Alabama, my father uprooted the family and moved us to sunny Central Florida.  He was offered a better job and as the baby in the family, who was I to argue?  This was no easy transition and I did not desire to move away from all that I knew to be familiar.  The road had been paved twice over from my older brother and sister graduating from my high school in Alabama.  My last name was known and I had more friends than I could count!  People, including teachers and coaches, knew me long before I had even heard of them and now I have to go to a new town and start over!  Ugh!

I learned from this experience and my desire is that it may help you or someone you know going through a similar situation. It was not easy for me, but eventually I was able to thrive in the new environment.  Transitioning to a new school is no easy task for anyone.  It is a different environment full of people you do not know.  There is also the lingering disappointment of having to go through the experience regardless what you are feeling!

5 Tips To Help Families Through A New School Transition

1.  Accept the things you cannot change: Yes, it is disappointing that you are going through this, but learn not to focus on the things that you cannot control.  The quicker you accept that this is your new school (yes, yes I know…it makes you feel like your parents won), the quicker you will be able to stop loafing and actually make friends.  This may sound something like this, “Well, I do really miss my old school, but acting like Johnny Rain Cloud all day long is just going to make matters worse. I need to make the best of this situation by giving up my negative attitude and finding the good.”

2.  Allow people to come to you: When a person is a fresh face in a fresh place it is important for them not to purposely attract attention to themselves. While there is nothing wrong with initiating conversation, you do want to avoid attention seeking, obnoxious behavior.  This may come in the form of bragging about how great your last school, “Gosh, the food was so much better at my last school” or “No one is as fast as I am in this class.” Such comments tend to make others go the other way. Instead, observe quietly, feel everyone out, and you will have people approaching you in no time.

3.  When others reach out, respond back:  If you are invited to sit with others during lunch, do it.  If an individual takes time to get to know you in class, open up a bit and share something about yourself. I understand this can be a bit anxiety provoking, but this is how friendships begin!

4.  It is okay to be different: Being raised in Alabama comes with a bit of a southern twang and to Floridian teenagers it does come across as a bit different and even funny sounding!   However, Be yourself!   People tend to look a bit silly when they act like something they clearly are not. Different is interesting so do not attempt to conform (but yes, you must follow the rules of the school).  There is value in sticking with who you are regardless of how it is perceived by others.

5.  It takes time: I wish it was not this way, but do not expect instant friends and for everything to come together in the first or two weeks. Friendships and a feeling of routine which leads to a feeling of comfort will take time, but it will happen!  If things do not seem to be meshing in the first couple of weeks, do not lose heart! Hang in there. Keep an open mind and a positive attitude, it will get easier.

Parents, it is important for you to encourage your child to be patient during this process.  They may frequently complain about their new school or attempt to isolate themselves in their room.  By golly, they are sending a message and you are going to hear it!  Empathize with them and do more listening than speaking.  Depending on the age of the child, a trip to get ice cream from time-to-time after school will help brighten things up and ease the season.  My hope is that these tips will help your child through a new school transition.  May anxiety lessen, friendships increase, and things return to normal as soon as possible.