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Family,  Lifestyle

Changing Schools in the Middle of the Year: Is it a Bad Idea?

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Changing schools for your children is never a whim. Job requirements often dictate our lifestyles and families, and military personnel know it best. Many other parents are continually weighing earnings and expenses. And sometimes, the only feasible way to create balance is to move.

A child standing next to school accessories thrown on a floor.
Image by Wokandapix from Pixabay

Relocation is a life-changing event, made more uncomfortable and stressful for children by a school change. What can parents do if the change is inevitable to make the transition easier for their kids? Is waiting for the end of the school year always a better option, or is changing schools in the middle of the year worthwhile?

What makes changing schools mid-year a bad idea?

If there is one thing more difficult than making a life-altering decision, it is making it on behalf of your child. If you strongly believe that your child will benefit from living abroad, changing schools could be necessary unless you opt for home school. Luckily, no one else knows your child better than you and the circumstances for the change. The perceived disadvantages of changing schools in the middle of the year may not be too bad in your case, after all.

We had to make the same decision a few years ago when our daughter was seven. We opted to move her after the Easter break to give her a chance to make friends and feel comfortable with her new surroundings. Sadly within 18 months, we had to move again but opted to wait until the start of a new school year to move her. She settled in well to both, but it depends on how your child would cope with the transition.

New routines

Just because they’re younger, it doesn’t mean kids will quickly adapt, and they still don’t have mechanisms to help them overcome some basic fears and anxieties. Getting out of the comfort zone doesn’t make it easier for children, so adjusting to new surroundings should take time before school change happens. It depends individually, but often longer is better.

A girl looking through a window.
Image by Cole Stivers from Pixabay

Between friendships

Developing friendships is not easy for some kids. The small social network they have built is an essential source of security and confidence, something they will miss upon moving. If you have a shy child, comforting your kid at this moment is your topmost priority. Social media apps can ease the transition but often create a new problem. Soon enough, children find themself between two worlds, not belonging to the old group of friends anymore and not investing time and effort to develop new friendships.

My daughter struggled immensely with this; in her first school, she had been too young to make deep, long-lasting friendships, which was evident when attempting to make new friends. Social dynamics have never been her strength, and her social anxiety has been in full force since the first school move. She drifts between friends, often not feeling that she belongs. As a parent, I’ve felt guilty about this for years, so if you can attempt to keep in contact with their previous school, please do it.

New teachers

There is one thing every kid quickly learns about school: studying diligently is important but adapting to the teacher’s criteria makes it efficient. Changing schools mid-year can disrupt the child’s learning habits, resulting in lower grades. While good teachers will acknowledge this and act with understanding and patience, not all teachers out there are sympathetic. Starting at the beginning of the school year will allow you to research teachers.

Different curriculums

Curriculums often differ between schools in the same county, especially once you move into high school. Moving in the middle of the school year may put your child in an awkward situation. Their old curriculum may have been more advanced, allowing them to finish their tasks sooner and with less effort or they may have had access to a different subject that is suddenly oversubscribed or no longer available in the new school.

Contact the new school at least two months before your relocation, ask for their curriculums, and compare them to the current one. It will give you a better insight into which courses may prove challenging to conquer after moving. If you make your transfer to a new home easy, and as soon as the school year ends, there may be ample time for your kid to fill in the gaps.

When changing schools in the middle of the year is the best solution?

Starting fresh

Moving homes is not always the reason for a change of school. If your child has experienced problems that are better left behind at the current school – like bullying – the change can’t come soon enough. It shouldn’t be perceived as running from an issue, though. Sometimes kids need only healthy surroundings for a fresh start. New school and new friends are most likely to help them rebuild their confidence and start afresh. The longer you wait to make this change, the longer they’ll have to endure the ultimate distress.

Unfortunately, we left this all too late with our daughter. We’d looked at new schools due to bullying and her social anxiety. However, covid happened, and the world locked down, being she was at home learning, and we couldn’t approach schools. If your child is struggling, move them sooner rather than later as she’s now stuck in a school she hates with girls who don’t understand her.

A child with a backpack going back from school alone.
Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay

Financial considerations

If moving abroad for a new job is upon you, being a calm parent may become a challenge. Your child may even prove to be more excited and ready to move to a new place than you are! Let’s not ignore that the move will also bring you a lot of the unknown. There’s also the point that most relocations are more affordable off-season, which is – in the middle of the school year.

This is when few families with school kids decide to move, primarily due to potential difficulties. However, if the two schools settle the administrative work between themselves and you get to save on the relocation, focus on the positive aspects of the change with your child.

Overcoming a difficult period

Traumatic situations, like divorce or a parent passing away, affect children differently from adults, making it difficult for mothers or fathers to understand the changes in their child’s behaviour, especially if they are dealing with the issue. A clean break is often the best course of action, and it may be too upsetting to remain at the current location longer than necessary. If changing schools mid-year is a way for the child to reset and redirect attention to healthy habits and positive thinking, parents should encourage it.

Every idea is as bad as you make it

Changing schools mid-year is not an issue if you don’t make it an issue. Whatever the reason for the move, regardless of your child’s mentality, grades, or attitude toward school change, you need to be the best parent possible. It means that you need to be understanding, encouraging, and above all, honest.

A smiling child sitting at a table with colourful pencils.
Image by Михаил Мингазов from Pixabay

Please discuss your child’s feelings, acknowledge them and show empathy. Offer your help and time and make them feel appreciated. Make realistic promises and, if you can’t promise anything, explain to your child that you’ll be there to support them whatever happens. Changing schools in the middle of the year is still just a change, and it is how and when you approach it that makes all the difference.

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