Our children all started new schools at the start of the year, after we relocated to a different county. For Fin, our eldest, he took it all in his stride, as he’s been there and done it all before. As a forces child he has already been to 5 schools in different geographical locations before his 12th Birthday. He’s also the type of confident child who can make a friend in a soft play centre in 5 minutes! Yes we have been very fortunate that this has been the case with him, so far.
Daisy has found it far more unsettling and tougher than I think she or we anticipated. On reflection as a forces child she has been fortunate to spend a huge chunk at one primary school. This school was a small village school that was predominately focused on military families. When she arrived part way in Reception, it again took her a while to find her place but she felt part of a family, and yes she had the odd gripe between friends or the odd learning frustration along the way, which is perfectly normal, but on the whole she has happy and settled. And became more so as she went from infants to juniors.
It was really hard to watch her leave her school, friends and clubs, but it is what it is and they have always known from a young age that we move about to be together and support each other for Daddy’s work.
So the first few days at her new school after the initial nerves, she was so happy and excited. I should have realised at the time that this high was too good to be true. After a few days reality set in and that horrible sense of the unknown and change had set in. Just like us grown-ups, change can be hard to deal with. Now 5 months in, I feel that we’re making very steady progress and steady is good. So to stop me waffling anymore, here are my top tips to deal with new school transitions.
- Talk and Listen- Talk to them, I still 5 months on make sure I check how she is after each day and ask her questions about playtimes, friends and schoolwork. I get a quick chat when she first comes out, as they’re never that chatty at pick up time. Then usually whilst I’m making dinner or doing bath time I will ask her a couple more quick questions. I know lots of people would probably say don’t annoy them by asking too many questions, but for us asking her was the best way, as she tends to keep quiet otherwise. Listen, an obvious one of course, but just listen to all their little gripes, comments and thoughts. Some points Daisy made to me seemed a little silly at times to me, but they’re not for her, these are little gripes that form the changes between how one school or area of the country do things differently. There were several things that I could then help her understand about all sorts of things from dinner time to school routines etc. Talk to the class teacher; I updated her teacher on how I felt she was doing and when she was struggling.
- Positivity- I annoyed myself at times on the way to school trying to think of a positive(s) to the day! I just felt that she had got, understandably, into a negative way of thinking. Rather than always agreeing with her that their old school was better at something, I would find a reason to turn it around to the new school having a positive. This also meant keeping my own thoughts sometimes to myself. As I too felt happier with some of the ways/ethos of her old school more, but I couldn’t let her hear my feelings on this, as it would effect her and shape her opinions from mine.
- Clubs- Sign them up for social clubs- I asked Daisy to Sign up to choir or some sporting clubs and she kept giving me different reasons why she didn’t know about clubs. I went in and signed her up for choir, as she loves singing and have paid for her to do netball, as she had never played before and she’s so competitive and sporty. These two clubs plus the lunchtime camo club have given her activities to look forward to. She has come on so much since starting some extra groups, and started to forge some new friendships through them. This is particularly helpful in large schools, as her school now has a 3 form entry, so she can mix with others outside her class.
- Support – Support them as much as you can with homework and areas they’re not up to speed with. Unfortunately moving schools has an effect on where they are with their learning. It could be that the school they were at before worked them harder and at a higher standard or indeed the other way round. This can also vary from subject to subject. This is where we as parents have to step in and support more than probably we were doing before. So for us Daisy has always struggled with Maths, and this new school is working at a higher level than she was previously working on. Her new teacher is a whizz in mathematics will hopefully be a much needed help, and with a once a week booster session and discovering early on a need for extra support, this has helped a lot. I’m also making sure that I can make more time to sit and explain her homework with her. This is another area that we have really had to work on cheering her up, as like most of us, she doesn’t want to feel like failing, and she doesn’t really want to do it! We have had to give her confidence in herself even when we have felt concerned with her level of understanding. We have also regularly pointed out to her how well she does in other areas, and that we can’t all be experts in everything! She loves to hear praise and so praising her on something when she’s in the midst of struggling with her maths is essential to her mood.
- Friendships- This is the hard one, Daisy unfortunately moved at a tricky age. Age 9 is when girls have made solid friendships and aren’t always willing for the dynamics to change by adding in someone new. This certainly has been the case so far. And she struggled with finding how she fits in with the others in her class. That said, Daisy has always been comfortable with playing by herself and not following the crowd. This I find is the best way to be, as it just takes time to find the other quieter, like-minded peers in the playground. She is getting there and spends a lot of time either playing with boys / girls that are just simply playing a game she likes. I also think it’s ok not to have a best friend, as then she’s not limiting herself to being dependent as in our environment best friends tend to move, or we move on. So I don’t worry too much if she hasn’t got a set best friend.
- Quality Time- Daisy really benefited from having an hour or two of one-to-one time at the weekends to keep her cheerful. One of the nicest hours we spent together recently was having breakfast in bed whilst watching CBBC together.
I know that these all seem quite obvious tips, but when you’re watching your child get upset or lose themselves slightly, it can be so difficult not to just cry yourself ( fyi, I cried a couple of times after dropping her off, or in the evenings when retelling her day to Dougie), or just feel a little helpless for them. I really focused on her and how to make things more settled for her, and I’m hopeful that we’re seeing a positive change now. It may seem like it will last forever, but just remember while it may take a lot of time, it is usually short in the big scheme of things. We quite often don’t feel settled in our new posting for up to 12 months and so why would it be different for the kids.