Welcome back to our guest blogger Sharon Montcalm, M.Ed., LPC, CSC!
Looking back, I always smile with a shake of my head when “the move of 2015” comes up in conversation. My family, we are not movers. We stay put. Well, we stay put until life comes along and then we move. And honestly, as far as moving goes, it really seemed to be going really well until we decided to go as a family to see a movie in our new city. During the summer of 2015 a fantastic movie detailing the inner workings of our thoughts and most of all our “emotions” was filling theaters; so that’s the one we picked (I picked). Off we went, to see our very own moving story play out on the big screen before our eyes, my child leaned over at one point to me saying, “This is our life. I don’t like it. It’s not entertaining to me.” Ouch.
Much like the family in the famous flick, most families making these summer moves will go through emotions that run the gamut from excitement, to anger, to sadness and hopefully at some point resolution sets in as the new becomes the familiar and the known. It’s not easy. It’s messy. Moving is on every list of life’s greatest stressors for a reason: it’s just painfully stressful for everyone in the family. And for those left behind.There will be tears along with laughter, so grab the tissue and hold on for the ride.
Keep Them Informed
After talking with the kids about the move, (yes, parents we get to break the news) then start including the children in gathering information about the new destination. Especially, to help answer the following question, “Where will I go to school?” which goes along with “What about my friends” and “Where am I going to live?”. These three questions could each easily fill a whole article or book, but the focus here is on getting started in a new school after a move.
Kids today are consumers of information. It’s at their fingertips all day long. Let them help you with gathering information to answer the question, “Where will I go to school?”. They can pull school ratings/rankings off of GreatSchools: School Ratings & Reviews for Public & Private Schools or the state’s department of education may also have a search for information on the schools within the state. Give them some assignments to look over websites, facebook pages and twitter feed from schools of interest to the family. Schools definitely know that families do research, so the amount of information available on school websites is growing rapidly. I pulled the “school report cards” for the middle schools in the community we were moving to and gave those reports to my son. He looked those over, looked at the websites and then we did drive arounds to the different campuses.
After narrowing down possible schools, have your child go through and get your signed up for all of the social media pages that schools now use daily. Yes, like the facebook page, get on twitter (no, I didn’t do this one…) and try to figure out instagram. Now, your student may be too cool to use these particular social media apps, but schools are trying to use technology to improve communication, build community and let the world know that there’s good stuff happening in the halls.These social media outlets are a parents best friend to getting a look at what’s going on at the school.
Next, start gathering the required enrollment documentation prior to the end of the current school year. States and school districts have required documentation for a student to enroll in the the school. Go to the school, the district or state education department website to look over the documents required for enrollment.
Here’s what I call “the basics”:
- Report Cards for previous school year
- Birth Certificate
- Driver’s License of Parent/Guardian
- Proof of Residency – this may be a utility receipt, lease agreement, or home purchase agreements
- Academic Testing Information/Results – this may be state or school assessments
- Special Education Records/504 Records/Gifted and Talented Records
- Divorce Decree/Custody Documentation
- Vaccine Records
Let your current school know that your family will be moving over the summer. This is huge in helping the flow of records move from one school to another more smoothly. Many schools will have your fill out a withdrawal form to officially withdraw from that campus which you can then take to the new school upon enrollment.This form lets the new school know that business has been taken care of with library books being returned, no charges in the cafeteria and all school equipment was returned to its proper place.
Now, get all of that moving stuff done in the next 8-10 weeks before the new school year starts. Throw a farewell party. Make those last minute visits to favorite spots in your old town. Cry. Laugh. And yes, expect the unexpected because you are moving with kids. Ask for help.This is the time to call for reinforcements for emotional support along the way. Most of all, find some fun this summer.
It’s August, most of the boxes are unpacked and there’s a buzz in the air that school is starting soon according to local retailers.
So here’s the BTS (Back to School) Checklist:
- Find out when new student registration will happen. This could be an online process or old school paper/pencil in the front office.
- Ask for a tour of the building to help kids learn about this new place.The school counselor loves giving tours. No, seriously I loved it.
- If riding the bus, get signed up and learn the pick up/drop off schedule. Our district runs bus routes by age group with separate bussing for elementary, middle school and high school students. It’s awesome!! Now, I know that is not the case everywhere.
- Go to the Back to School Events at the school. These are great ways to meet teachers, maybe drop off supplies and get another walk around the building. There may even be snow cones, hotdogs or popcorn. Yes, I have experience serving all of those at Back to School Night when I was a school counselor.
- Middle School and High School students may have something more like a schedule pick up day where all of the fun happens like picking up schedules, getting yearbook pictures taken, signing up for clubs/groups and buying stuff. There’s also been an increase in orientation/transition days at middle schools and high schools for students new to the campus like sixth graders and freshmen. These days allow for a longer period of time to be on the campus doing fun things while also learning about how things run at the school on a regular school day. A great one that I served as a coordinator for is WEB – Where Everybody Belongs designed for a year long middle school transition experience for 6th or 7th graders with 8th graders serving as mentors.
I encourage parents to ride this wave of newness with their children. Listen when they talk about missing friends, missing their old school, and missing just about everything that was their life. Hug them when they cry. It’s okay to let them know that you are making adjustments to this new place, too. Stay positive. And hopefully, with each passing day the new becomes the now which becomes the known. After all, we are such creatures of habit.
Sharon Montcalm, LPC, CSC
Ms Montcalm is a Licensed Professional Counselor, Certified School Counselor and Owner of Kid Time Counseling in Denton ,TX where she happily serves kids, families and educators. Sharon spent sixteen years working as a public school counselor experiencing school days with students ages 4 to 18. It takes time to be a kid. www.kidtimecounseling.com