Helping your child adjust to a new school
The summer holidays will be over soon, and then it will be time to start a new school - be it at the kindergarten, primary, secondary, or tertiary level. Leaving the familiar surroundings of old friends can be discomfiting for some children to adjust to a new setting. Many students suffer from anxiety about blending into a new environment. Some even fear being bullied, or they are anxious about the advanced lessons they will be facing.
Family and Religion reached out to Stacy-Ann Whyte Toolsie, educational social worker in the Ministry of Education Youth and Information Region Six, for insight into the issue. She agreed that transitioning to a new school environment may be one of the most difficult experiences for a child, whether at the preschool, kindergarten, primary/preparatory, high, tertiary-school level.
Pointing out that it is usually a situation of bittersweet emotions for parents, students, friends, and well-wishers, she said that mental preparation is necessary for survival.
"In order to be prepared for combat, there must be some amount of training. This is where the students' support system comes into play - parents and friends helping to train and prepare students to face the expectations of a new school. This could be done through educational videos on YouTube, conversations based on students' level of understanding, summer-school activities, orientation, and also informal school visit or tours," she shared.
Role Of Communication
It is for this reason that Toolsie is stressing communication for mental preparation, especially for children in the early years of development.
"Talk with them to find out some of the challenges they might have experienced in the past, and allow them to develop coping strategies just in case these challenges reoccur. For preschoolers to kindergarten, coping strategies might include using the restroom independently, packing up after activities, and feeding themselves in a timely manner. If it's the child's first time at school, it is imperative that time is spent working with them during the holiday period to be more independent," she said.
Toolsie also praised the summer-school trend at all levels as she said it gives new students the opportunity to participate in academic, developmental, informative activities notwithstanding orientation exercises that further prepare students for their transitional years.
But ultimately, she shared, children, in most instances, look to their parents or caregiver to know when they should be worried or fearful in a situation.
"It is critical that despite the fact that the first day of school might be rough, different and scary due to a deviation from the norm, students can handle it with proper mental preparation," are the assuring words coming from Toolsie.
Parents can also facilitate a smoother transition, according to Toolsie, by:
- Engaging their child in positive self-talk, especially if their child suffers from low self-esteem issues
- Providing them with the necessary resources to make their transition comfortable and by showing love and providing reassurances to them;
- Letting them know that they will always be there for them and that they will make their new school experience seamless and effortless.
For students entering a new environment, Toolsie had some self-preservation tips:
- Follow parental instructions as well as routines as planned such as school arrival and departure routines.
- Follow instructions as indicated by teachers, ensuring that actions are within the expectations, rules, and regulations of the institution;
- Stay away from gang involvement or gang-related activities that may jeopardise continued admittance in the institution.
Some students may also face 'ragging' or 'grubbing'. Grubbing or ragging involves humiliating harassment. It is an abuse of new students by their seniors, usually in high schools, colleges, or universities.
In the event a student encounters grubbing, Toolsie said that he should not hesitate to report it to the school's security and inform parents about this activity. "If you are in an area on the school compound where you think this activity might happen, make sure to relocate to a public area as quickly as possible, like a school lounge, front section of a library, or anywhere where you might have your friends and feel safe."
However, she said that if ragging is a way of interacting positively and having fun, then the child can participate to the level where he is comfortable. Once it escalates, he should desist from participating.