Moving schools mid year? Here’s how to make a smooth transition

As parents, there are so many questions and decisions that we grapple with. Guilt plagues our minds constantly – it makes parenting so damn difficult! Do we? Don’t we? Should we? Shouldn’t we?  And the questions around schooling are no less difficult to answer.

One of my recent parent-teacher discussions was around a parent’s decision to move. Job opportunities had arisen and the whole family was up and moving. New town, new jobs and … new school. I felt for this poor couple, as they sat with guilt-ridden faces, pouring out the turmoil that they had been through in making this decision.

And it is a big one. And neither I, nor any teacher can tell you that your child is going to cope fine. Most do! Some don’t. For some, it takes time. But for all of them, there are a few things that you can keep in mind to make the transition as easy as possible.

Preparing your kids

One thing that kills me as a teacher, is when I have had parents who have not told their child, until the last possible moment that they are moving. In one case, the parents didn’t tell their child until after they had finished on their last day!

Please, give your child a chance to process, discuss and say goodbye. Although you may not like their initial reaction, giving your child a chance to discuss the move with their friends, their teacher and you, will help with the transition in the long run. If you are concerned, talk to your child’s teacher first and set up a bit of a plan. In the past, we have had farewell parties, swapped email addresses and even researched, as a class, where the child was moving to. The whole class got involved and we all got excited for the nervous little one. By allowing this time for both your child and their classmates (not to mention the poor teacher!) to process the move, you are giving your child a small amount of ownership over a big change. Although the move will still be sad, there will also be an element of adventure and excitement about what is to come.

What do you need to know?

Since the introduction of the Australian Curriculum, there is not too much difference regarding the outcomes and expectations for each grade or stage. Some states however, have put their own spin on it, so if you are moving interstate and this is a concern for you, just ask at your child’s new school and they will point you in the right direction.

One of the big differences is the variety of language that is used for different stages of schooling, in particular ‘Preschool, Kindergarten, Prep.’ Different states call this stage different things, so if you are moving interstate, just check on the alignment of these things so that when you say, “My son is in Kindergarten,” everyone is on the same page.

How can you make this easier?

Talk, talk, talk. Talk to your child. Talk to their teacher. Talk to their new school and their new teacher and ask the new school to get in touch with the old school or vice-versa. It is not uncommon for parents to ask teachers to ring and touch base with the new school or teacher. I have been asked to do this on a number of occasions, especially in the younger years. Remember, your child’s teacher understands that this is a major change in your child’s life and I have not met a teacher yet who doesn’t want to help their student make a smooth and easy transition.

OK, we’re here … now what?

Create a good line of communication between yourself and the school. In the primary years, this is usually easier as there are more opportunities for parent involvement and presence at the school. Help with reading, attend grade parent social functions … get involved. Develop relationships with the new people in your child’s life. In secondary school, don’t be scared to check in with your child’s teachers. This could be their Home Room teacher, their Year Coordinator or subject-specific teachers. Email is usually the quickest and most convenient means of communication for any teacher, as the school day is hectic.

In the primary years, as your child develops friendships, make time to have play dates to encourage the new friendships that they are developing. In high school, it may take more time. Give your child the space they need; yet offer the support they will need to find their feet. Encourage them to have new friends over or to meet up for outings. No matter the age of your kids, make an effort to get to know their new friend’s parents … you might end up making a few new friends yourself!

Just remember that moving is a massive change for your child, but it doesn’t have to be a traumatic one. Communication and open conversations about the transition is the key. Don’t let the dreaded mother (or father) guilt take hold. Sometimes we have to make decisions that are best for the whole family in the long run. You are the adult, and although it sometimes doesn’t feel like it, you know what’s best.