Your child’s first day at a new school is fast approaching, and she’s stressed out. Changing schools can be a tough adjustment for any kid, especially for an older child leaving behind lifelong friends. Here are some ways you can make the transition easier for your child.

Start Early

  • Visit the new school with your child as soon as know where he will be enrolling. If your child is old enough, include him in the process of choosing a new school.

  • Start looking for ways for your child to meet kids at her new school. Network through the parent organization, your real estate agent, your spouse’s or your new employer, and any other connection you can find.

  • Once you have a few leads, a social networking site like Facebook can help you connect with even more parents.

  • Don’t overwhelm or push your child into meeting new friends. Just let her know you’re there to help if she wants you to.

  • Look for activities in your new community similar to ones your child currently pursues. If your son enjoys martial arts, try to find a comparable program. If your daughter is on the swim team, try to get her onto a new team as soon as possible.

  • If your child wants a fresh start, suggest new activities he might enjoy.

Work With the School

  • If your child has any special needs, such as a learning disability, work with the new school as far in advance as possible to determine placement and to line up services.

  • If your child is in a gifted program, find out the process for getting him into the gifted program at his new school. Different states have different policies, and you might need to have your child tested or retested.

  • If your child has a history of struggling in school, work with the principal ahead of time to line up support, even if your child does not currently have an individualized education program.

  • Check out the curriculum at your new school. If your child has not learned some of the material she is expected to know, make arrangements to fill in the gaps. This is especially important if you are moving to a different state.

  • Talk to your child about differences at the new school, such as a tougher homework policy or a different grading scale.

Be Positive

  • Talk about all the things the new school has to offer. Maybe it has an outdoor classroom, an indoor pool, or a well-stocked art room.

  • Remind your child often that new friends don’t replace old ones. Make arrangements for her to visit her old friends if possible. If your child is old enough, help her connect with her friends online, under your supervision.

  • If your child is reluctant about making new friends, consider counseling.

  • Give your child time to adjust to the new school.

Get Involved

  • Join the parent organization.

  • Make friends with other parents, but don’t expect your child to automatically become friends with their children.

  • Look for other ways to get involved in the community, such as a religious congregation, the YMCA, or a neighborhood club.

  • Talk to your child about how you miss your friends and former community, too, and about ways you both can adjust.

  • Give yourself time. It can be hard, especially if the principal has a different leadership style than at your child’s former school or if your child is struggling academically or socially. Even if your child adjusts beautifully, you may still miss the old school.

Making the leap from one school to another is tough, even for an effervescent child who has always done well in school. If you have multiple kids or older children, or your kids have never switched schools before, the move can be downright hard. But it’s important to focus on the good that is coming from the move. Let your family know that the change has the potential to be great for everybody.

Journalist Patti Ghezzi covered education and schools for 10 years for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. She lives in Avondale Estates, Ga., with her family, which includes husband Jason, daughter Celia, and geriatric mutt Albany.