Our family will be moving some time in the next year or year and a half, and we are trying to figure out the timing. I'd like your advice on how traumatic a mid-year school change would be for our 4-year-old son, as opposed to one during the summer. He just turned 4, and is in a private 3-day-a week preschool now, where he's doing well. He's smart but naturally cautious and self-conscious, and our main worries about him are social, as he's slow to warm up to new friends and situations. His current preschool teacher says he's been starting to initiate interactions with other kids lately, though, which we've been thrilled to hear.
He will start kindergarten next year, and we're debating 3 different scenarios; a) to move this summer and have him start a new school in September (it would be a little difficult to do the move this soon for financial reasons, and it may entail actually moving twice, though the second move would be within the same town); b) to stay where we are, have him start a new school year in a new class at either his current private school or at the local public school, and then move mid-year (this second option would entail starting out with my husband having a 45 minute commute); or c) waiting another full year in our current location, then moving the summer after his first year of kindergarten (but with Daddy having a long commute all year).
So I guess my question is: will changing schools be easier or harder as he gets older? Is a mid-year school change likely to be as traumatic for him as it was for me when my family moved when I was in 3rd grade? (I was shy, too, and it was very hard). Would you judge that a longer commute for Daddy would be as hard as changing schools?
Thanks so much for any advice!
From: Carriefran, Boston
I'd definitely rule out option A, moving twice. One move in one year is enough of a challenge for any family. I'd also rule out option C, a year-long long commute for dad. If dad is grumpy and exhausted and perhaps not even home half the time, that will impact the family negatively and cumulatively because it will be going on for so long.
That leaves B, moving mid-year. Moving gets harder the older kids get. Third grade -- the year when you moved -- is harder than kindergarten. Sixth grade is harder than third, and moving in high school is the pits. Or not. These are general guidelines but: it depends on the child. Some kids are more adaptable than others. I don't know your son. You do.
Here's the other thing. Back in the day, the consensus was that a summer move was easier on a child. It gave them the chance to finish the old and then they had all summer to make friends and settle in and join a new grade at its beginning. There's still some wisdom to that. But consider this: These days, most kids have programmed summer activities: t-ball camp one week, arts & crafts camp the next. It's not as if there will be neighborhood kids hanging around to greet a new kid on the block. So what happens? The new kid ends up in a strange house (because that's how it feels to a kid: strange, not new) in a strange neighborhood in a strange town where there is nothing to do and no playmates.
Kids today are used to structure. Revised thinking says it is easier on an elementary school child to move mid-year because you are plucking him out of one structure (his old school) and plopping into another one (his new school). There's an adjustment period, sure, but he knows in general about how the classroom works, about its routines and activities. It's familiar, and that turns out to be a source of comfort that can make the adjustment easier than moving in the summer.
Of course, you want to do the litany of activities that make a move easier: Take photos of his old classroom, teacher and friends; arrange playdates for after the switch (at the old and new school) and certainly ask the new school for help in his adjustment. Many schools assign a buddy to new students. If he's sad about leaving the old school, validate those feelings ("I know, you'll miss your friends.") as opposed to dismissing them ("Don't be silly, you'll make new friends!").
I'd love to see comments about readers' experiences with this!
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