August 17, 2009

Helping Kids Have A Smooth Transition To A New School

Whether it's down the block, on the other side of the city or across the ocean, changing schools can be a difficult adjustment for kids of all ages, according to experts at Baylor College of Medicine.

"Anxiety is a typical reaction in these types of situations," said Dr. Leng Bang, assistant professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at BCM.

Many children are afraid of whether they will make new friends and fit in at school. Pressure to perform at a certain level in school can also be a source of stress for kids, said Bang, who is also a pediatric psychiatrist at Texas Children's Hospital in Houston.


However, parents can take an active role in preparing their kids for this change and alleviating some fears.

"You can prepare them by taking them to purchase school supplies and new clothing. Get them on a regular nighttime and morning routine, and talk to them about worries they might have," said Bang.

Communication and involvement

It's important for parents to maintain open communication with their kids, and it's also just as important to communicate with their teachers and the school.

"If you have a positive attitude towards your child's school and are happy to get involved in school activities, your child will reflect this behavior," said Bang. "If you are involved in school activities, it's a great way for children to make new friends."

Get help if it's needed

Although anxiety is initially typical, it should fade over time, said Bang. If parents start noticing changes in sleep and eating patterns and grades, and an increase in complaints of anxiety related ailments such as headaches and stomachaches, it may be time to intervene.

"Talk to your child's teacher to see if they have noticed any changes at school as well. You might then want to get the school counselor involved to help your child get through this difficult time," said Bang.

Anxieties can develop about school that may lead to behavioral changes or even school refusal. If this occurs, it is often helpful to seek help from child mental health professionals, said Bang.

In the end, maintaining open communication and staying involved will make the adjustment period easier for kids.


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