Back to School Tips for Starting Somewhere New from a Military Momma
The first day of school is always filled with so many emotions for both kiddos and parents alike, but then when ya add in the fact that it’s also a new location with new friends (for both kiddo and momma!) it can be almost downright overwhelming!
My son turned five in June of this year, and he’s already attended THREE different preschools. We’re an active duty Army family and move so frequently that this has become the norm for us… but that’s sadly doesn’t necessarily make it any easier!
Luckily, we’ve picked up a few tips to make the whole thing just a smidge less stressful on everyone that I’ll share with everyone today!
First things first- we talk very openly about school and our feelings! Since I knew this year he would be starting at yet another new school, I wanted to see how he was feeling about it all. He told me he was sad to leave his old friends (he was confused for a little about why they weren’t all moving with him to a new place and school too; but alas this is something we frequently have to discuss. Leaving old friends and making new ones or seeing old ones again is just something military kiddos do and eventually get used to). One key tip for preparing a kiddo for a big change (like a move, or new school) is to talk about everything that will stay the same! You can make a list together of every single thing (big and small!) that will stay the same when you move/start at a new school. For example, here's what Theo and I listed out that would be the same when we moved to Kansas:
1. Friday night will still be family movie night with pizza!
2. He still will have to wear shoes to school (?????? kids are funny)
3. Mom will still drive him to school and pick him up every day.
4. We may not know anyone at school, but he would make new friends and can play on the playground with them.
5. He will still bring his same Mickey Mouse backpack everyday.
..... you get the drift!
Next, we do a LOT of prep work at home. I like to set realistic expectations for what the school will be like. This takes some legwork on my end, because I have to figure out what the curriculum is (granted, my kiddo is in preschool, so it's different than how elementary school will be; but the way the schools teach and what they teach etc. is so different it seems from state to state). To do this, I like to google, poll other military mommas already there for info, and then call the school to discuss with the director/teacher. This year was especially important for me to do "my homework" on the schools he could attend because of both COVID (of course) and also because technically my kiddo is old enough to start kindergarten this year (as he is a new five year old) but I didn't think he (or me for that matter!?) were emotionally ready for that adventure; so I needed a school that was "red shirt" friendly (a term I had never heard for school before; it means somewhere that will allow him to be older and repeat/hold back a year) for pre-K again. We decided private school was our best option for all of this, so I wanted Theo to know what class he would be in, what they would learn (again for him), and how the day would look each day. This way he went into his first day prepared for how it would all go!
Lastly, I think its important to put yourself out there early with other parents. I know this can be hard for introverted friends (I don't have this problem because I'm 100% extroverted all the way and can go up to a brick wall and strike up a conversation and leave thinking it was a great time, haha), but it's SO important to do your best to try and talk to the other parents and teachers at the school. As a military family, we can often find other people to connect with before back to school nights on facebook groups or through friends of friends, but if not, I just walk up to someone who has a nice smile on (a bit harder with masks for COVID though!) and say hi, I'm Julie, and have a son Theo who is new to this school and area. I hope we can all be friends and play on the playground together sometime! This way, I've started trying to make some new friends myself and feel less lonely and scared about it all... and the same applies to Theo! Sure, he will naturally make his own friends, but it's a heck of a lot easier to walk in on the first day knowing at least one other kiddo in your class' name ya know!?
Has your kiddo had to change schools with moves a lot? Or are you lucky enough to get to stay in the same area each year and only have to change from preschool to elementary, to middle and so on? Would love to know below any tips you have for helping littles navigate such big, exciting transitions!