For kids, moving from one school to the next without any training or warning is tougher than adults remember. Because of fast moving technological advances and new teaching styles, it’s almost impossible for students to stay current in learning curves and social trends. Things like the common core are giving both children and young teens anxiety they didn’t sign up for, which could be pretty scary in September when a whole new year starts, especially for kids transferring to new schools either because of a family move or a graduation to the next level of education.
To be fair to modern teaching systems, anxiety among school-aged children also comes in the form of new technology. Schools are now requiring students to bring laptops but don’t permit cellphone use. This not only confuses young children, but doesn’t afford them the chance to pick up the phone to call for support or help but, rather, can send them in a spiral of cyberbullying and severe anxiety that they won’t be able to keep up with a machine that by definition is supposed to update itself almost daily. It’s confusing for any child, let alone one with severe anxiety. It’s extremely important to understand the cause and effects of life when your kid makes the switch from one school to the next in order to limit his or her apprehension.
The important thing is to understand children and young adult mental health, specifically depression and anxiety. For older generations, it’s extremely difficult to grasp exactly what kids and teens are going through in school. Even older millennials did not carry the same weight that kids do today. We can all agree that social standards among pubescent and pre-pubescent children make a huge impact on how they live their days. In an interview with Time, children’s psychiatrist Dr. Swaran Singh focuses on the stress that comes with children switching schools (“Switching Schools May Give Your Kids Psychotic Symptoms”). What is of interest to parents and students alike regarding “school hop” is that children who switch schools three or more times at a young age are twice as likely to have some sort of mental illness.
“Even when we controlled for all things that school moves lead to, there was something left behind that that was independently affecting children’s mental health,” he adds.
So, when moving from school to school, meeting new cultural and social standards may take more time than if a child lives out his school career in one place. Because of this, new schools for new students are hotbeds for bullying, both in person and behind a computer. The most important thing is to be an ally to your kids when they feel like they don’t have any.
D.A.R.E., the organization whose mission statement is to make “A world in which students everywhere are empowered to respect others and choose to lead lives free from violence, substance abuse, and other dangerous behaviors,” gives some integral tips on how to keep your kids from being bullied and how to help if they are. The biggest tip is to be their ally. Things like getting your kid involved in extra curricular activities and to discuss daily ongoings are all things you can do to prevent new school bullying.
On the chance that your child doesn’t face any form of new school bullying, there’s also something to be said about kids feeling alone or in an unsafe space. In an article for The Guardian, Dr Aaron Balick, author of the children’s book Keep Your Cool, mentions a few ways you can make your child feel more welcomed during his or her switch. Practices like making a switch more exciting than nerve-racking and mapping out allies are all great tools to keep in your back pocket for the occasion, or any life change you or your child may face.
“Changing schools is the challenge now, but big changes will happen again and again (nothing stays the same), so getting skilled up in dealing with change will help you for the rest of your life.”
Balick makes an interesting comparison between excitement and anxiety: they are both the same in many ways, except one is fueled by fear.
“Anxiety is excitement with the added ingredient of fear that things will go badly. By turning your anxiety into excitement, you can enjoy the anticipation of starting at a new school without scaring yourself out of your wits.”
The most important thing to teach your new learner, however, is that change is a part of life. Whether it’s good or bad, teaching children at a young age that there will be many changes is crucial to their wellbeing. That’s not to say you should teach an elementary school student that the world is full of panic, but rather, that you will support them through all types of change and the more we appreciate the idea the easier it will be.
Dr. Singh closed off his chat with Time by saying. “If we start thinking of mobile students as a potentially vulnerable group, then we can shift how we view school moves.” Long story short, we need to start treating kids who switch schools with more care. As parents, teachers, even fellow classmates, we aren’t giving new students the attention they crave in order to easily slide into their new surroundings and culture. The faster we can do that, the easier it will be for kids to maintain good mental health to lead a happy, achieving lifestyle.
Is your child or teen undergoing a school transition that is affecting his or her mental health? Is your young adult with mental health issues about to leave for college? Our Resource Specialist is available to help you locate resources for support in your community or on the student’s college campus.
Author’s Bio: Hillary Goldsmith is a writer by profession and a volunteer by passion. After graduating from Rutgers University in 2013, she went on to get her MSW at Arizona State University, which she will complete in 2019. Hillary’s volunteer work mostly involves the mental health community, specifically non-profits to create suicide awareness. Besides writing and volunteering, Hillary enjoys Starbucks Passionfruit tea, the Rutgers Scarlet Knights football team, and hanging with her husband and cat.