Changing Schools and Navigating the Transition

Changing schools is tough on kids. The loss of best friends and familiar teachers they’ve come to rely upon can be something many children dread. But there are a number of reasons why your child will, at some point in their life, need to switch up schools. For example, your family could be moving to a different city with its own school system. Or your current school might not be quite the right fit. Or, your child requires special accommodations. 

Whatever the reason, your child’s move to a new school can pose a unique set of challenges. But there are many ways to navigate the transition to a new school and make this change an easier one for you and your kid. Meg Tibayan, co-founder and home educator at Bright Sprouts, a resource for curated learning activities, offers tips and advice for not only starting a new school in Indianapolis, but how to find the best one for your child. 

Why Transfer to a New School

Many parents like the choice of sending their children to a different school. A new survey released in September 2023 by the nonprofit Mind Trust revealed that most parents like the idea of picking their child’s school. Overall, the survey shares why charter school parents like their kids’ school, from the schools offering parents and kids a sense of community to promoting innovative curriculums and educational programs not found at other schools. If given the option, 67% of respondents said that they would recommend their chosen school to another family because they like their choice so much. 

How to Make the Transition

In Ohio, Open Enrollment offers students the chance to attend a school tuition-free in a district outside the immediate area in which they live. Every school district in Ohio may or may not choose to accept students through open enrollment every spring, as it all depends on the school’s current enrollment numbers.  

Of course, finding the right school can mean figuring out what school is right for your child. Before enrolling your child into a new school, it is always a great idea to assess your child’s particular needs. “Every child’s needs are unique,” Tibayan says.  

But also, the “one size fits all” approach to selecting a new school does not work for every child. “By understanding each child’s strengths and challenges, we can tailor strategies to enable them to thrive at their new school,” Tibayan says. Therefore, it makes sense to do some research into your different school options. 

If you are interested in a certain Ohio school district, contact their enrollment office. Application periods start in spring, and each district has its own unique application process and timetables. Aside from finding the program that’s right for your kid, also bear in mind that parents are responsible for transportation for their child to the new school district. And so, it is a good idea to inquire what options the school district may be able to offer in special cases. 

Supporting your Child

Once you determine the right school, you will want to prepare your kid for the transition. “Early preparation helps ensure the transition is gradual and not abrupt, minimizing stress,” Tibayan says.  

One way to do this is to discuss the move positively with your child. “Explain to your child why the move is happening and highlight the positive aspects,” Tibayan says. “Create a narrative that frames the change in a hopeful and exciting manner. This initial conversation sets the stage for how your child will perceive the transition. 

“As an educator, I see how young minds are affected by change,” Tibayan adds. “Children can easily feel stressed, anxious or overwhelmed when faced with a new school environment.” Keeping a positive attitude around your child will greatly help. 

Next, you will want to visit the new school together. But make sure you do this prior to the new school year, giving your kid time to adjust to the idea of the new school as they enjoy their summer break. During this time, you will want to encourage open communication with your child.  

“Create a supportive environment where your child feels safe to express their emotions, whether they are excited, nervous, or upset,” Tibayan says. “Showing empathy and validating their feelings can help them cope with the transition.”  

Once school starts at the new school, make sure you implement a sense of consistency. “Start adapting your daily routine to align with the new school’s schedule,” Tibayan says. She points out that this might include anything such as adjusting sleep, meals and homework routines to gradually easing into the new timetable.  

At the same time, as your child transitions to their new school and schedule, you will want to stay accessible and involved. “Be available to discuss their experiences and assist with any challenges they face during the first few weeks of school,” Tibayan says.  

And just as important, take the time to celebrate milestones. “Acknowledge and celebrate your child’s accomplishments, no matter how small,” Tibayan says. This can include celebrating their first month of attendance or meeting new friends. 

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