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For any teenager, adjusting to a new high school can be tremendously stressful.
High school is a big step up from the world of middle school, and in many cases, this transition can be considered one of the most difficult. Not only is there the grown-up world of classes, schedules, and time management to deal with –there are also drastic increases in the amount of academic work that they’ll be expected to do –and the level of independence that they’ll need to do it. To add to this complexity, there’s also the complication of changing social dynamics, navigating different friend groups, and all of the major physical and emotional changes that teenagers are going through as well. All things that can mean a great deal of stress –and anxiety.
Add a significant life change, like a move, into the picture, and that stress becomes even more compounded. Moving in the middle of the school year might not seem like the end of the world, but for teenagers, it can be an especially stressful experience. Facing the prospect of having to leave behind their friends, their old school, and everything familiar can be hard enough. Having to forge new friendships mid-year, when everyone’s already formed friend groups and cliques –can make things even more difficult.
We’ve spoken to some education professionals and teachers across the United States who work with high schoolers and asked them some questions on transitioning to a new school. They’ve shared some tips on what you can expect when transferring to a new high school – and shared advice on making the transition a bit easier – even if it comes during the middle of the school year.
With this in mind, let’s take a look at some questions that we’ve asked – and advice from the experts to help your high schooler to have a smoother transition into a new high school – no matter what time of year that transition takes place.
Answers From The Experts
1. At which age do children (grades 9-12) tend to have the hardest time adjusting to a new school?
“When they enter middle school and again when they enter high school,” says Leah Crews, high school teacher at Options Secondary, Littleton Public Schools.
“I would imagine middle school and then into high school,” shares Sarah Shouse, who teaches high school at Athens Drive Magnet High School, “Due to the difficulties of breaking into friend groups.”
Expert opinions are somewhat divided on when, exactly, it’s hardest to change schools, but most agree that younger is usually better when it comes to adjusting to a new school.
2. At which age do children (grades 9-12) tend to have the easiest time adjusting to a new school?
“K-2nd,” says Crews.
“Possibly elementary age,” agrees Shouse.
For younger children, it’s typically much easier to make the transition into a new school, even if that transition happens in the middle of the school year. Younger children are less inhibited by social expectations and tend to have more confidence. They’re able to make friends more easily and have an easier time fitting in.
3. In which ways do you typically see stress, anxiety, or grief come out of children after they’ve started at a new school?
“Work refusal, withdrawal, crying, not coming to school,” shares Crews. “Always asking to leave the classroom.”
“I’ve only ever taught high school,” shares Shouse. “So from what I’ve seen high school-age students will become very shy or swing in the opposite direction to try and create those friend groups.”
For parents and guardians, keep an eye on your high schooler, and have plenty of discussions about what they can expect when they start at a new high school. Communication can help to give them a chance to talk about their fears and concerns and will give you an opportunity to help. But don’t just talk, remember to listen. Teenagers don’t always say what they’re thinking, but being supportive, validating their feelings, and looking to help them is always the best strategy. Don’t lecture them on why they should make more friends, or dismiss their feelings by saying that everything’s going to be just fine. Instead, look to help them come up with solutions and give them practical tools that they can use to help that first day –and those first few weeks, to go more smoothly.
4. How can parents/guardians work with teachers and/or school facilities to help support their child?
“Get the teacher interested in something the child is interested in,” says Crews. “Have the child be familiar with the school counselor.”
“Staying invested in the school community by encouraging clubs, sports, and other extracurricular events for their child to meet people,” shares Shouse, highlighting some ways that parents can help their teenager to get more involved.
Wanting to help your teen get excited about their new school? Do as much research about it as possible. Research together and try to learn what your teen can expect and what opportunities will be available. The more you learn, the more comfortable your high schooler will be. If possible, try to take a tour of the school to give your teen an idea of what they will be getting into and what they can expect. Help them locate their locker and the various rooms they will need to be finding. Giving them the layout can help calm some of those last-minute nerves.
5. How should parents/guardians prepare children in advance of their first day at a new school?
“Have them take a tour of the school and meet some teachers if possible,” says Crews.
“Having discussions about possibilities of classes,” shares Shouse. “And making it light hearted with maybe a new take on an old outfit or new clothes to get excited about.”
For parents, maintaining a positive attitude about the process is the best place to start. Sure, there will be an adjustment period and there will be new responsibilities and a heavier workload, but staying positive can help the process to go much more smoothly.
Another area where high schoolers often struggle is when it comes to time management. The workload for high schoolers drastically increases, as does the pace at which they are expected to learn. For many, this is a struggle and a learning curve. Help them learn to prioritize their workload and manage it so that they aren’t constantly cramming the night before. Getting them a planner or setting them up with an online calendar –and helping to get them started with it, can help them to stay organized and teach them time management skills.
6. Beyond the first day of school, what challenges do children typically face in their first few months of school?
“Making connections,” says Shouse. “For high school we really work to encourage students to join a club/sport of their interest so that they can become invested in the school and therefore the community.”
One way to help high schoolers to adjust to their school is by giving them the tools that they need to make friends. For high schoolers, making new friends is a critical step in adjusting to the new school. Even one or two close friends can make a world of difference. One of the best ways that parents can help to facilitate this is by getting them involved with sports or activities after school. Encourage your teen to join extracurricular activities that they are interested in to give them opportunities to socialize and start forging connections with others.
Then get involved yourself. As important as it is for your teen to get involved, it’s also important for you, as a parent or guardian, to be involved as well. High school is a new experience for parents as well, and it is important that you get involved and learn about it alongside your child. Attending PTA meetings, open house nights, and any other opportunities that allow you to interact with teachers, staff, and other parents can help both you and your teen adjust.
7. How does the experience of children who’ve relocated and enrolled in a new school mid-year (or any time after the school year has already started) differ from those that start brand-new on the first day?
“The first day everyone is a stranger,” says Crews. “When you enroll midyear you are the stranger in a strange land.”
“Just not having someone as a touchstone for when you feel uncomfortable,” says Shouse. “I’ve never personally had to do that and I can only imagine how difficult that is. Thankfully I’ve seen students bounce through with ease and grace due to their wonderful resiliency.”
Keep an eye on your teenager as they slowly begin to adjust to their new high school. In most cases, nerves and jitters begin to subside eventually, but there are a few warning signs that you’ll want to look out for –signs that could indicate that their stress or anxiety has become too much. Ongoing academic struggles, withdrawn behavior, or changes in behavior could indicate that your teenager is finding it difficult to adjust. In these cases, try trying to talk with them or set up a meeting with the school counselor. When your high schooler has your full support – and the tools that they need for success, they’ll be able to not only survive – but even thrive in high school.
8. What is your biggest piece of advice for parents/guardians who are currently moving or will move and enroll their child in a new school?
“Be patient with your kiddo, kids will do well if they can,” says Crews. “If they are not doing well, give them love, meet with the counselor to problem-solve together, and above all stay positive and actually listen to your kid. Transition is hard for everyone in the family but a positive parent will make things so much better.
“Be open to change and be flexible with a new system,” says Shouse. “Everyone has to learn to adapt in the new situation with the new expectations.”
While changing schools in the middle of the school year can be stressful for high schoolers and parents alike, there’s a lot that you can do to make the transition easier for everyone involved. The most important thing to remember is to be there for your teenager. Their ability to have a smooth transition will depend largely on how much support they have at home, so make sure you’re there for them as they take this big next step. High school is a time where you’ll want to equip your teenagers with life skills that will carry them through as an adult. Being there for them, listening to them, and helping them to find solutions will go a long way toward helping them to adjust, and eventually start to warm to the new school.
With hard work, patience, and a lot of love and support, you can help your high schooler with this big transition. One of the best ways that you can ensure that you’re there for your teen is by freeing yourself up from some of those stressful, time-consuming tasks that you’ll have when moving. Fortunately, moving and packing is something that can be outsourced quickly and efficiently. Enlisting the help of a reputable moving company means that you’ll be able to free yourself up to spend more time focusing on the most important aspects of the move –your family.
See our round-up of the best long distance movers and find someone that you can outsource your move to today.
Have a question or comment regarding this article? Email Kara Griffin at firstname.lastname@example.org