Change throughout a lifetime is ongoing. It never really gets easier, even in adulthood. Moving is an especially challenging experience — and can be amplified as a young child. This is an opportunity to introduce this life lesson to your child and even share your own apprehensions. Here’s how to approach this transition as you move to a big city and help navigate the process for your child, specifically starting at a new school.
Involve Your Child
Moving, especially to a big city like New York, is overwhelming and intimating for a child to imagine. Keep in mind, children are resilient. No matter how tough this transition will be, they’ll adapt to the change — scary newness will eventually become the norm. Start by involving your child as you prep for the move and shop for apartments online with a service like ForRent. This helps them feel part of the process too. As you look through photos and learn about features, ask them what they’d like and what their ideas are for decorating. Offer suggestions for a fun new bedroom theme. See what colors they’d like to paint their walls or look through Pinterest for inspiration. Focusing on their bedroom helps turn anxiety into excitement and focus their minds on the fun of creating their own space.
Explore the City
Leading up to the move, check out the neighborhoods surrounding your new home and your child’s new school using Google Earth. Together, you can actually walk the streets and become familiar with the on-foot commute to school. You can also use the feature “areas of interest” by Google Maps to locate parks, cool restaurants, museums and more. Once you relocate, dedicate a day to family-friendly fun to set a positive tone before your child ventures off for a first day of school. Explain that learning about the new city is like an adventure — and joining a new school will be just as adventurous.
Tour the New School
Remove fear of the unknown by visiting the new school before the first day, so your child can see the new environment firsthand. You may also want to arrange a school administrator or teacher to lead a tour, answer any questions and introduce your child to what makes this school unique to ignite excitement. This could be a great opportunity to include one or two top students who can positively share their personal experiences, such as what gym class is like or what extra curricular activities to join. These students can also become a familiar, friendly face for when you child starts school.
Start a Conversation
As you financially and logistically prepare to move, your child’s concerns can unintentionally fall low on the priorities list. Dedicate time to ask your child about any worries or anxious feelings. Although focusing on the positive aspects can help with the change, addressing the negatives is just as important. Encourage dialogue, but don’t be pushy for them to open up. Inquire gently and listen intently. Don’t dismiss or minimize their feelings and come up with solutions as a team. For example, if your child is sad about leaving friends, allow them to FaceTime, connect over social media or plan a visit to see them that they can look forward to.
Another topic to bring up is “firsts.” Ask you child to share three experiences in the past when they tried something for the first time, like attend camp or learn a new skill. Talking about the fear beforehand, how they handled it and the outcome helps them reflect on former experiences. This builds confidence and shows the rewards of going outside their comfort zone.
Help Your Child Socialize
For kids, friendships are the end-all be-all — as friends create a sense of comfort and social inclusion. Although you can’t make friends for your child, you can support their relationship building. Ask your child about his or her interests. Would joining a sports team, extra curricular activity or club provide a place for them to belong? You can also introduce your child to peers outside of school by meeting families in the neighborhood. Plan a gathering or neighborhood event like an urban scavenger hunt as proactive matchmaking.
Welcome technology into your child’s socialization too. As long as you set parameters and privacy controls, social media and video games serve as great ways for kids to first connect.