Changing schools can be as stressful as moving house, and these big life-changing events often coincide. But a new school doesn’t have to be a traumatic upheaval for you or the kids. Here are five things to keep in mind that will help keep the stress away from this important time.
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Location, location, location
It’s the buzz phrase of the real estate industry, and the same goes for schools. In fact, the two have always been intrinsically linked, with good schools known to drive up demand – and prices – in feeder suburbs. Move just outside the zone of a popular school and you could be left contemplating a second-best option for your kids. With this in mind, do your homework: find out where the school zones are (if it’s important to you) and make finding a home within the boundary the starting point for your property search.
When you’re moving house, you may need to do some negotiating. For example, the kids mightn’t want to change schools, so you may need to give them some choice about their own rooms. You might love a house, but its distance from school might mean you wind up being a taxi service for the kids. Whatever it is, be prepared to make some compromises. When considering a new home, think about how life in your new home will affect both your lifestyle and your children’s – particularly if you are travelling long distances for school pick-up and drop-off, and sport and extracurricular activities.
Involve the kids
Changing schools will be less distressing for your children if you involve them in the process and make them feel like they have a say in the decision. Before you start house hunting, make a list of your dream areas, suburbs, or towns, and visit the schools first. Get the kids to explore the grounds and classrooms, and perhaps even meet some teachers. What are their impressions? What school do they like best? Empower them with some decision-making so they don’t feel like the move is completely forced upon them.
Start transitioning early
Most house settlements take a couple of months at least, so you have a few weeks up your sleeve to start transitioning your child into their new school. If your child is a primary schooler, take them to meet their new classmates and teacher, and maybe stay for a play at lunchtime. Find out about any extracurricular programs, school camps or special activities coming up, and get your child excited about being involved. Having something to look forward to will help them adjust.
Find a buddy
No one likes being in a social situation where they don’t know anybody, so make it a priority to introduce your child to a few people at their new school before they start. Reach out to people in your social networks and see if anyone has children attending the school, and organise for them to meet. If your kids are older, look to their sporting groups and outside interests, which often draw from a broader geographic area, to see if there are any students from the new school there.
Change is never easy and shifting schools can be a turbulent period of transition for all the family. But with some planning, a good dose of patience and parental involvement (even if the kids aren’t aware of it!), you might just find that it’s the best move you’ve made.