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Growth, Separations and Transitions: A Four-Part Series – Part III: Changing Schools

For most private school families the end of the year is a few weeks away. Whether it is the transition to a new grade, a new school, summer camp or college, change’s tension hangs in the air of most families. This post is part of a four part series about how to think about welcoming the new and keeping bridges to the old. In Part III of this series, we look at what happens when kids leave their current school for a different one.

Saying Goodbye to an Old School and Hello to a New One

Children change schools for many different reasons. It is natural to experience the old school as lacking, even if separation is a result of a natural moving on, like to a high school or middle school. Yet, even if your child was miserable, chances are there were some very positive aspects to the experience. Leaving with dignity, not burning bridges and feeling proud of even a lousy year actually bolsters your child’s self esteem and enables him or her to enter the new school feeling positive.

If you and your child are angry about things that happened or didn’t happen during the year, spend some time connecting to things you appreciated. The last thing you want is for your child to feel any shame. Life is filled with making choices that don’t turn out to be the correct ones over time. People outgrow all kinds of situations. Everyone needs the new perspective that changing environments can bring. The process of transition is often grueling. Once you have made the change, embrace the place from which you have come.

One family left their school because their son felt very out of place socially. He was a musician in a grade where most of the other boys focused on sports. On the last day of school they took a bunch of boys to a ball game. They called it, “Jeff’s last baseball game, probably ever.” Everyone understood the joke and it made the truth seem friendly and appropriate. Another family left a school because it had no high school. In the week after school ended, the family went for ice cream, tracing a path from the middle school to the high school. They built a figurative bridge between the two.

About the Contributor: Susan Bodnar, Ph.D., clinical psychologist, is regular contributor to the NYC Firm Schools Blog in the area of parenting and child & adolescent mental health with a cultural and environmental perspective.

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