MilSpouse Moments: Helping Your Military Kids Navigate a New School Mid-Year
Moving is commonplace in Military life. Servicemembers are frequently relocated throughout the course of active duty, but that doesn’t mean it ever gets easier. Moving takes a toll on everyone involved, especially the children of Military Families.
Summers seem to be the ideal time for families to move. Kids have more time to say goodbye to friends, adjust to the upcoming changes, and can integrate into their new school system at the beginning of the school year, which makes adapting to a new curriculum a whole lot easier. However, relocations can happen at any time, which means your family may at some point experience changing schools mid-year.
On the one hand, mid-year moves mean an exciting change of scenery and chance to make new friends in a new place. Not everybody gets the chance to explore the country, or even the world, the way Military Families do. Take advantage of all the benefits this experience can offer!
On the other hand, mid-year moves are usually sudden, and can feel much more drastic than moving during the summer. Moving mid-year means having to leave behind familiar faces and assimilate into a new environment rather quickly, which can be overwhelming for children and adults alike.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed about an upcoming move and don’t know where to begin, here are some tips for navigating mid-year school changes:
Get organized before the big move.
We’re not talking about packing — we’re talking about paperwork.
First, you’ll need to file the necessary paperwork to enroll your child in their new school. If you’re unsure of whether you want to send your child to public or private school, or have the option to choose which public school your child attends, check out these tips for enrolling in a new school:
- Location, location, location. When searching for a new school, look for the top schools in the most convenient location for your family, whether it’s within walking distance, on the bus route, or along your commute.
- Register the right way. This may seem obvious, but you’d be surprised how many enrollment issues can arise because parents don’t file paperwork correctly or on time. Contact your child’s new school well in advance to ensure you have all necessary registration documents. When in doubt, call to speak with a school administrator to address any questions you may have.
- Set your child up for success. Cut-off dates for specific grade levels vary by school. If a child’s birthday is near the cut-off date for their new school, parents have to decide in which grade to enroll them. If you’re concerned about your child struggling to keep up amidst this transition, or the curriculum is more intensive in your child’s new school, you might consider having your child go back a grade to ensure they’re on track for success in their new learning environment. However, this is a personal decision for each family to make, so there is no right or wrong choice.
Remember — the process of enrolling a child in a new school is different for everyone. Parents are entitled to make whatever decision is in the best interest of their children.
Aside from enrollment forms, there are a lot of documents and records you will need to transfer from your child’s current school to their new school.
Medical paperwork, particularly immunization records, should be sent to your child’s new school ASAP. If there are any unmet vaccine requirements, you’ll need to schedule an appointment with your pediatrician to get your child those immunizations.
It’s also important to have copies of necessary documents such as birth certificates and school transcripts in case these items are requested by your new school. Make sure these documents are easily accessible at all times — don’t pack them in a box that you leave with the movers! Not only are these documents critical to school enrollment, but misplacing them could potentially put your children at risk of identity theft.
Talk openly with your kids about what to expect.
Moving can be scary for children. Will I like my teachers? Will I make new friends? There are a lot of unknowns involved, and your kids may have some questions for you.
When it comes to changing schools mid-year, transparency is the best policy. By communicating honestly and answering your kids’ questions to the best of your ability, you may be able to assuage some of their anxieties about the upcoming move.
Let them know the date of the move, where they’re moving to, the name of their new school — anything that can help eliminate those unknowns. Showing them pictures of their new home or school can also help by visibly showing them what they can expect.
You can even work with your current school to plan a going away event for your child, or invite their friends over for one last bash before you take off for your new home. By making this somewhat scary endeavor a celebration, you turn moving into a positive experience for your child, which can eliminate some of their concerns.
It’s important to remember, however, that being honest with your children about the specifics of the move and sharing your personal feelings are two very different things. It’s completely normal to have your own anxieties or concerns about the move — it’s a big change for you and your spouse, too. But it’s best not to discuss these fears with your children. Instead, share your feelings of excitement with them! Moving opens up a world of new experiences and opportunities you may have never thought possible.
Learn and adapt as you go.
Lastly, know that it’s never going to be perfect. Moving can be hectic, and there are just some things you can’t plan for. But you can pay attention to your child’s transition and intervene when necessary.
When it comes to changing schools mid-year, all children adapt in their own way, at their own pace. Some kids benefit from being set up with a buddy or a classroom helper to give them the attention they need to assimilate properly. Other kids don’t want to feel different from their peers and are better off diving in head first.
If you’re concerned about your child’s transition in the classroom, check in with their teachers and make a plan get them on track to succeed. When it comes to social development, ask fellow parents about the types of activities their children participate in, whether it’s a local soccer league, Eagle Scouts, or a church group, or set up playdates to introduce your kids to their peers.
There are also a variety of MilSpouse support groups across the country, many of which you can access online through chat forums and Facebook groups, that can offer you advice and guidance through this life change.
Moving mid-year can seem daunting, but it doesn’t have to be so scary. Change is exciting and provides opportunities for you and your children to grow. Look forward to what lies ahead — you never know what the next chapter of your life will bring!
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