7 Tips to Help Military Kids Adjust to a New School
There are more obstacles for your military child to overcome than simply saying goodbyes, moving to a new home, and making new friends after a PCS move.
Military kids have to find their way in a new school. And whether they can slip right in at the beginning of the school year or they draw a little more attention in the middle of the year, they’re still the new kid.
From peers to teachers, there are no familiar faces to them. So what can you do to help?
1. Give military kids the reins.
A PCS move full of goodbyes, a new home, and a new school can lead your military kids to feel out of control of their lives. A key part in helping them overcome feelings of displacement is to create ways for them to make choices.
If there's an option in schooling, let your child weigh in on the discussion. This might be as simple as choosing between public, private, or homeschooling, or there might be a variety of public and private schools to choose from.
"Focusing on your child’s strengths and weakness is a good place to start assessing what type of education is best for them."
-Dawn M. Smith, How to Find the Best School Solution for Your Military Kids
What They'll Wear
Let kids pick out their outfits for school and lay them out the night before.
Food for the Day
Do they want cafeteria food or to pack their lunch? If they’re packing a lunch, let them choose what to take — within reason. Let them help you fix it and get it ready to go!
Most schools offer a variety of extracurricular activities. Talk to your kids about their options and let them be a part of the decision-making process.
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2. Set a positive example.
Our kids learn so much from us. If you keep a positive attitude, then they will be more likely to, as well. That doesn’t mean pretending that this transition isn’t hard. It’s important to acknowledge the sadness associated with leaving their home while you work through it with positivity.
Teach your kids that, even though it can be scary to go to a new school, it’s an opportunity to make even more friends and try new activities. Plus, they will meet new teachers who they might (fingers crossed) like even more than previous ones.
3. Keep an open dialogue.
Chances are, this isn’t your child’s first time at a new school. As a military kid, they’ve likely switched schools before. But if this is the first time for your child, talk them through it. Help them understand what to expect. And create opportunities for them to voice their concerns.
Need some ideas?
- Sit down for family breakfast or dinners together.
- Walk to school with them.
- Drive without music on in the car.
Related: 7 Tips to Help Your Military Kid Cope with PCS
4. Get involved.
Be a familiar face for your kids. If you’re a stay-at-home or work-from-home parent, try to volunteer at the school. That way your kids can see you during their day and know that they’re not alone.
If you’re strapped for time, this doesn’t have to be a long-term solution. A couple of weeks and a few appearances may help your child make a smoother transition into their new environment.
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5. Jump into extracurriculars.
Help your kids build their new community through after school activities. Extracurricular activities can be a great opportunity to immerse your child into groups of children with similar interests. Not to mention, it can help them find their place and feel like they belong.
Related: Back to School for Military Kids!
6. Create structure.
Create a routine for school mornings (as well as after-school activities) that establishes proper expectations, keeps everyone from rushing around, and provides consistency.
"Hold on to as many traditions as you can from your child’s previous school day routine. Carrying them over will introduce added layers of familiarity to the situation." -Laura Mueller, Moving.com
A routine will help you and the kids start the school day cool, calm, and collected.
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7. Tour the school.
Whether it’s an organized back-to-school night or a private tour, allowing your kids to see their new school, find their way around, and see their classroom before they start can help to settle feelings of displacement and uncertainty!
Sending your kids off to a new school, especially if they’re anxious about it, is a difficult thing. As new as it is for them, it is for you, too. The best thing you can do is set them up for success and help them find their way.