Children sometimes have to move school, either by choice or because of family circumstances. Although moving schools can be challenging, you can help make it easier for your child.

Moving schools: preparing your child

Although it’s quite common for children to move schools, it’s also normal for them to resist change and feel stressed about changing schools. So if your child is moving schools, the best thing you can do is prepare your child for the change.

You can do this by involving your child as much as you can in the process of choosing and moving schools. This will help your child see the exciting and positive aspects of the move. She’ll be a lot happier if she knows that her needs are important.

Here are tips for involving your child and making the change easier:

  • If possible, discuss the move with your child well in advance.
  • Be enthusiastic about the move yourself.
  • Ask your child to write a list of things he’d like to have in his new school.
  • Ask your child to make a list of the things she’s looking forward to about going to a new school.
  • Ask your child to make a list of the things he’s worried about. Take time to discuss each issue on the list.
  • Find out about schools in the area you’re moving to. Make a list of the schools and show it to your child. If your child is old enough, talk about the pros and cons of different schools with your child. If possible, visit the new location and schools with your child.
If you talk with your child about moving schools, and let your child express her concerns or negative feelings, it’ll help you see the situation through your child’s eyes. Letting your child see how you’re managing your own feelings about the move will be reassuring and help your child get used to the change.

Before moving schools: some practical tips

You might like to write a checklist of all the things you need to do as part of moving schools. Then you can tick them off as you get them done. Here are some suggestions.

Your child’s old school and community

  • Talk to the principal and teachers of the school your child is leaving.
  • Request or make a portfolio of your child’s work to take to the new school.
  • Make a scrapbook of people, activities and memories from your child’s old school.
  • Make a contact list of friends from your child’s old school and neighbourhood.
  • Share your new address with your child’s close friends. You might even like to give them pre-addressed and stamped envelopes so that they can write to your child.
  • Plan a farewell party.
  • Donate your child’s old uniform to the school’s uniform pool.

Your child’s new school and community

  • Talk to the principal of the new school.
  • Ask about strategies the new school has for helping new children adjust to the school – a buddy system, for example.
  • Buy the new uniform and books if you need to.
  • Walk around the grounds and buildings of the new school with your child. This will help your child get to know where the important things are. Your child might even be able to spend a day in the school before you move.
  • Talk to your new neighbours or your child’s new teacher. Perhaps your child can meet some classmates for a playdate before the first day at school.
  • If your child has special needs, talk to the new school about its facilities and support programs. If you’re moving interstate or from overseas, your child’s abilities and eligibility for support might need to be checked.
  • If English isn’t your or your child’s first language, ask the school about support programs and services that can help.  
If your child with special needs is moving schools, you might like to check out our articles on school for children with autism spectrum disorder and school for children with disability.

After moving schools: helping your child settle in

Once you’ve relocated, try to make some time to help your child settle in. Here are some ideas:

  • Meet with your child’s new principal and teacher. You might like to set up a review meeting, even within the first week or two, to see how things are going.
  • Make sure your child has the right equipment and clothes – for example, sports uniform on sports day. Children are most focused on fitting in, and this can help.
  • If possible, get a copy of the weekly timetable so the whole family knows what’s happening.
  • Make sure your child knows about getting to and from school – for example, where you’ll pick him up and drop him off, or where the buses stop. If your child will be travelling to school by himself, it can help to do a trial run with him first.
  • Check out the school canteen, library, sporting fields and other school facilities.
  • Find out if there are other extracurricular activities offered at the school that your child might enjoy.
You can help your child get the most out of school by building relationships with teachers, other parents and students from the very first day. It’s a good idea to get involved with school activities and functions for families whenever you can.

Moving schools: understanding the challenges

Moving can be a very positive experience for your child and family. But changing schools – whether it’s between suburbs, cities, states or even countries – presents several challenges.

These challenges include the following:

  • A child could end up repeating topics she learned at her previous school.
  • A language other than English might be used at the new school.
  • A child’s individual needs might not be identified quickly.
  • Friendships left behind might not be replaced so easily.
Children are very adaptable. Most of them will manage moving to a new school quite happily. But you do need to be aware of how your child is feeling about the move.

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Raising Children Network is supported by the Australian Government. Member organisations are the Parenting Research Centre and the Murdoch Childrens Research Institute with The Royal Children’s Hospital Centre for Community Child Health.

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