I have four kids and they all started new schools this year. When my youngest son told me (in tears) the kind of first day he had, I admit, I shed some tears of my own.
It was the classic new-kid-on-the-block (not the band, but I love you Donnie Wahlberg) syndrome.
Recess included walking around by himself. Kids ignored him and he ate lunch alone at his desk. The worst part? His teacher had a life-size cut out of Taylor Swift sporting a “Welcome” sign at the door of the classroom. I have no words for this.
Attending a new school is hard on most kids for obvious reasons and starting over isn’t always the most enjoyable of hobbies. I understand the stress since I changed schools seven times, although I realize it’s more difficult now with the pressures kids face on a daily basis.
These last few months, I’ve been figuring out (the hard way) what my kids need from me as they settle into their new environments. I’m still trying to catch up, but here’s what I’ve seen they need most:
Right now especially, my kids need my mad cheerleading skills. Go team!
2) Being present and available.
Unfortunately this means I need to put my phone down and make eye contact with my kids. I know it sounds like a no brainer but when I get a Twitter notification, everything stops in my world.
3) One-on-One Time.
I can’t say enough about this. I found carving out some specific one-on-one time opened up the opportunity to chat about classes, teachers, homework and classmates. Simple activities like playing a card game or making cookies provided a setting where they could be themselves and talk a little more freely.
Since my kids won’t let me volunteer in their classrooms (of all the nerve), I’m finding other ways to be involved. Meeting teachers, attending Open Houses, wearing yoga pants like all the other cool moms, keeping up on homework assignments and helping in the library are some ways I can get the lay of the land, so to speak. Knowing what’s going on in the classroom better equips me to know how to help my kids.
I want my kids to know they matter, so I tell them. A lot. Communication really goes hand in hand with # 3. Funny how dialgoue opens up when you spend uninterrupted time together.
We are our children’s advocate. They need to know they can count on us.
Adjustment isn’t going to happen overnight. Changing schools is one hell of a transition, especially as they get older.
Despite how it may appear at the beginning, good really can come from this difficult experience. It teaches kids new social skills, forces them to reach out of their comfort zones, makes them realize what it feels like to be the new kid, and hopefully help others who are in the same boat one day.
I hope my kids will be able to look back and value the experience. If not, I suppose I better start saving for their therapy sessions now.
Jessica Hoefer-Land is a wannabe urban homesteader living in Portland with her blended family of 4 kids, 3 rescue dogs and 4 chickens named after Starbucks drinks. Described by her colleagues as a “Feminist Jedi Master,” Jessica can be found spreading peace and wisdom at her blog, The Dalai Mama.