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Moving up or just moving to town – tips to ease the transition

Whether a child is moving up to a new level of school or is completely new in town, the start of a school year can be a time of high anxiety. But a few key steps can help those nerves turn into confidence as families prepare for a new school year.

Positivity is key, according to Darian Byrd with the School District of Pickens County. After over 10 years as a principal, Byrd said it is vital for kids to see encouragement and for families to help children build excitement about a new school.

Taking a tour of the school in advance can ease the first day nerves. Whether the tour is led by staff or a student, kids can get a feel for the layout and the overall atmosphere of a school with a quick tour. Many middle and high schools allow those starting off at the school a chance to walk through and find their classrooms. This can help students of any grade to feel comfortable.

Hamilton Parks is the Middle School Assistant Director at Christ Church Episcopal School in Greenville and has years of experience watching students become acclimated to their new surroundings. His number one piece of advice is for students to learn the new community around them.

“Find out the traditions, legends, lingo and all the things that make the new school buzz,” he said. “Becoming part of a new school is not just about the academics, but so much about the connections and relationships you and your family make.”

Byrd also recommends that kids get involved outside academics. By joining a club, the band or other activities, students can relax and meet like-minded friends, which is key to helping them adapt to their new surroundings.

“Classrooms are rigid and structured. Kids need that social time outside of that to form connections,” Byrd said.

Other students can welcome a new one by inviting them to sit together at lunch and even standing in a semi-circle. Parks noted that circles are closed off, but semi-circles are inviting. A smile and a welcoming word can go a long way in making a nervous new student feel more relaxed, so encourage your established students to be friendly.

“It's important to let kids express their fears and anxieties, but also reassure them that feeling that way is normal when going into a new situation,” Parks said. “Adults feel the same when they are beginning a new career. Allowing them to talk through their feelings around their anxiety is important as they learn the intricacies of their new environment.”