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By GreatSchools Staff
From a parent's perspective, one of the most headache-inducing issues is finding a school for your kids. The new school district may have idiosyncrasies that are hard to predict from afar, so it's important to do your research ahead of time. Some of the best resources are online, and GreatSchools can help simplify the process with our school ratings and parent reviews. Be sure to check out our guide to choosing the right school for step-by-step advice as well as these insider tricks from our resident school-choice expert, Jodi Goldberg, on picking the best preschool, elementary school, middle school, or high school .
Once you've settled on a school, the next challenge is helping your kids fit in and make connections. Morris worked to make sure her kids wouldn't get lost in the crowd. "I met with the principal of the kids' schools and gave them postcards I made," she says. "The front said 'Hello. My name is ___' with pictures of the kids. The back gave some info about us along with our contact information. I invited parents to call us as soon as we moved in so the kids would have some familiar faces."
Child and family therapist Ron Taffel urges parents to help their children practice the transition by visiting the school before classes start and giving them a chance to socialize with new neighbors and school employees.
“If you can manage, host a simple afternoon get-together at your house in which you're essentially practicing the art of becoming a good neighbor and doing some proactive matchmaking — setting your children up with a few other kids in the comfort of your own home,” says Taffel. “Kids' relationships can form quickly and are very portable, often moving from the living room into the classroom.”
If moving to a new city is stressful, it can be stressful on parents and kids alike. Joining a community group is one of the simplest ways to get established in an unfamiliar place. Seek out people with common interests, but don't be afraid to branch out and try new activities. For movers who find themselves in out-of-the-way places, online communities are an appealing alternative.
When Janet Grimes's family moved from Nashville, Tenn., to Canton, Mich., it meant switching her daughter from an intimate, private Christian school to a large public high school. Grimes stresses the value of establishing ties to a new community: In her daughter's case, beating culture shock involved "finding a good church and a few core friends that she sees on a regular basis." And how's her daughter faring? "She has responded beautifully," says Grimes.
Once you've settled in, be especially sensitive to emotional changes in your children. Watch for mood swings because kids, like adults, can be susceptible to depression when dealing with major life changes, long-distance moves among them. Symptoms to look out for include irritability, social withdrawal, increased sensitivity to rejection, and difficulty concentrating. If you notice any signs, spend more time with your kids, talk to them about their feelings, or seek advice from a child psychologist.
Parents can set an example by maintaining an optimistic outlook to help keep negative emotions at bay. As Grimes advises other parents, "Stay positive so your kids will do the same."
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