Our daughter is a proud military brat. She happily learned the Air Force song as a tiny tot, wears red on Fridays, and has been present for three of Daddy’s promotions – one while in utero – and twice she has proudly pinned on his new rank.
She is 10 years old and currently in the fifth grade. In those six years between kindergarten and now, she has been in FIVE schools. The longest she’s been enrolled in one school is 1.5 grade levels. I am continually amazed by her resiliency and ability to make new friends. It isn’t easy, and I know it won’t get easier as she gets older, but she manages to do it with such grace and excitement.
But in those 5 schools, we’ve learned a few things that help make the transition from school to school a bit easier.
1.Make the student a part of the process.
This time around, we were concentrating our home search in two areas near the base; one had middle school for grades 6-8 and one had grades 7-8. We talked about why she might prefer one over the other. Taking her opinion into consideration helps her feel heard, and gave us a perspective we may not have thought of before.
2.Meet and greets can add friendly faces.
Starting at a new school can be scary! Taking a tour of the school ahead of time will help alleviate some wonder and maybe some fears. Meeting some of the staff, maybe even a new teacher can help by having a friendly face waiting. Some schools have military groups or Facebook pages that can help connect you; there may even be a buddy program. The Military Child Education Coalition also has student to student groups in many areas that match kiddos up.
3. Make copies of everything.
Even though records can easily be transferred by filling out a few forms, it can be easy for things to get lost in the shuffle, or end up in the wrong place. Our last school had so many military students, they had record transfers down to a science. Our new school was on a different schedule, and that meant different office hours, summer vacation, and confusion. But I had paper copies of everything, and that aided in the process. Also, be familiar with the Interstate Compact, and the resources available. Reach out to the installation School Liaison Officer, who can assist during the process.
4. Moving doesn’t mean saying goodbye.
We’re firm believers of the “see ya later” mantra. While it is very exciting (and sometimes scary!) to start a new chapter and make new friends, that doesn’t mean you need to say goodbye to the old ones! As a military spouse, I have friends all over the world, and Facebook or email helps me keep in touch. It’s a bit different for the kiddos! We encourage her to send cards and notes to friends from afar, and we set up a monitored email address that she can use to send notes. This has become a major point of pride for her, as she has friends across the globe and looks forwards to their letters and emails.
5. Have things to look forward to.
While not necessarily school related, having a list of things to look forward to can ease the transition. When we find out we are moving to a new duty station, our first plan of action is to start our family bucket list. We use the internet and guide books to plan what we want to do in the area. This can even include school activities – does the new school have a team or club that your child might want to join, or maybe a neat annual event? This has an added bonus of providing a ready list of activities to do for the weekend when we are otherwise looking for something to do.
Military life is full of change and uncertainty, and our goal has always been to help prepare our daughter and make her feel supported. Transitions can be tough, but with a little preparation, it’s possible to make it a positive experience and happy memories.
What tips have helped your military kid transition to a new school? Share your suggestions in a comment!
Posted by Sheila Rupp, military spouse and parent