Given the fact that military families move every 2.5 years on average, and some more frequently than that, chances are in the next couple of years your military family may be moving. Military children move from school to school, starting in new schools at milestones different from their civilian peers. Being proactive in helping your military children adjust to a new school is key to helping them continue their school success in a new location.
Contact the School Liaison Officer
Each military base has a School Liaison Officer or SLO. They are there to provide information on the local schools, school registration requirements, and any special programming specifically to military children. Looking for a school with an excellent sport for your child to continue? They should know what the options are for your area. This helps you narrow down your home search. Or if school choice is open in the new area, the SLO can help navigate to make sure your child is plugged into the school as soon as you arrive.
Get Your Child Involved
If your child is old enough, get them involved in learning about the new school. Check out the school’s website, which often has a list of clubs and photos of events in the past. This allows your child to learn about the new school and perhaps find things they want to explore once the school year starts.
Take the Tour
When you have your orders, have a new home, and know where your children will go to school, call the school and ask for a school tour. This familiarizes your children with the school before the first day. It allows them to meet teachers, see classrooms, and perhaps see the school’s playground or gym equipment. There may be something familiar from their previous school which excites them. This also is an opportunity for everyone in the family to ask questions about the school, classroom, and curriculum.
Get Involved in Extracurriculars
If you can move ahead of the school year start, plug your kids into an activity that feeds into their school. This gives them a chance to meet people that may be in their classroom. Vacation Bible School, summer youth sports or even local summer camps at the school are good options. Aren’t sure where to start? Ask on the local military base pages and contact the base SLO.
Ask for Open Communication
When meeting the teacher for the first time, share that you are new to the area and you want to ensure a successful school year, so you want to be apprised of any concerns. Addressing academic, emotional, or social concerns early will help your child feel plugged into the school faster. Share your child’s strengths and desires, as the teacher doesn’t have the benefit of talking to another teacher in the school or reading previous school files to learn more about them.
Familiarize Everyone with the School Routine Early
If able to, begin running over the daily routine the week or so before school starts. What time will wake up be? What will need to be prepared the day before? What time is pick up? This is especially key if your family has moved or changed time zones, especially just before school. It also helps parents to be aware of what needs to happen so it isn’t as stressful on that first week of school. Stressed out parents can lead to stressed-out kids, which isn’t a fun way to start the school year.
Celebrate the Small Things
Celebrate what may feel like a small achievement – getting up and ready on time, a great day at school, a report that came back with a fantastic grade. These things will get everyone in the swing of things and encourage continued success.
Use Your Resources
Each school has a school counselor if needs need to be addressed outside of what the teacher can provide. Reach out to the SLO as well, and most bases have Military Family Life Counselors (MFLC) who can help address concerns and changes that are unique to military life.
Home Study Environment
As soon as possible, set up a study environment. Create a space that will be the study space for your students. Ensure it is well-lit and comfortable so they are more willing to sit and study there. Even a spot at the dining room table will work if there is a cubby or place to put school items when it is time for dinner.
By proactively planning and researching schools and being proactive before school starts, you can help your military children adjust to a new school. As with any change, there will be ups and downs, and everyone adjusts at different paces, so be patient with everyone in the family. With patience, planning, and engagement, military children will be ready to embrace and grow in their new school environment.