Worst Age to Change Schools

The Worst Ages to Change Schools

Published On: March 18, 2024

Are you considering changing your child’s school? You’re not alone. Parents may consider changing their child’s school for a variety of reasons including seeking better opportunities elsewhere, challenges not being properly addressed at their current school, moving to a new area, and financial reasons. Many parents find themselves wondering, what the worst age to change schools is and how they can minimize the negative impacts of switching schools.

There are many factors that influence how your child will respond to switching schools. One big factor is the age of your child. Usually, the older the child is, the more difficulty they have when switching schools. For example, a 6 year old will typically have less challenges than a 14 year old. No matter the age of your child, there are ways to support your family through this transition.

Concerns When Switching Schools & How To Address Them 

Academic Achievement

Some schools are ahead of others academically. You may find that your child is either ahead or behind their new school’s academic curriculum. If you find that your child is struggling with their new classroom material, I recommend that you first schedule a meeting with their teacher to express your concerns. Their teacher may be able to provide them with additional support in the classroom to help them catch-up, or they may have recommendations for out of school support such as tutoring.

On the other hand, if you find that your child is ahead of the school’s curriculum, it may be helpful to meet with a school counselor or school principal to discuss your options. Depending on your child’s grade level, they may offer advanced classes that your child could join in order to promote continuation of academic advancement. You should expect your child to have some struggles as they adapt to their new school’s curriculum and teaching style. To combat this, it’s important that you focus on encouraging your children and build upon their strengths to help them adjust.

Social Connectedness

When transitioning to a new school, it’s typical for children to miss their peers at their old school. If this arises, it’s important to recognize these feelings as normal, and encourage your child to connect with the students at their new school. You can encourage connection by talking with other parents at the school, signing your child up for sports or clubs at the new school, and checking-in with the school about after-school programs. Some schools offer programs to support new students, such as connecting a new student with a current student to help ease the transition. If your child is struggling to make friends at their new school, you might consider connecting with the school counselor to see if there are any groups offered to help children build social connections.

Disruption to Routine

Depending on the structure of the new school, your child’s routine could be significantly impacted. Some examples of disruptions to routines include needing to wake up earlier, having a different commute, their school schedule, lunch times, and break times. You can expect to have some challenges as your child adjusts to their new routine. It’s important to have realistic expectations for your child to struggle a bit with these changes. They may be resistant, irritable, or easily frustrated. It can be helpful for parents to remind themselves that these challenges will ease as their child finds their new normal.

Best Strategies When Switching Schools

Time of Year

Although leaving a school can be tough, there are ways to make it easier. One way to make it a little easier is by intentionally deciding what time of year you will switch schools. It’s recommended that students begin the school year at the school that they will be attending for the full year. For example, it is much more disruptive for a child to switch schools in the middle of March than it is to go to a new school on the first day of school in August. 

Grade Level

There are some grade level changes that often come with transitions. This includes the transition from pre-school to kindergarten, elementary school to middle school, and middle school to high school. If you are able to wait to transition schools until one of these changes are coming, you will find that your child adjusts better. This is because your child is not the only new student at the school – Everyone in their grade is new students. 

Advanced Notice

It is helpful for parents to allow their child to process the transition before it takes place. It is better to give your child advanced notice that they will be changing schools than to spring it on them suddenly. This allows your child to have time to process their emotions, ask questions, prepare themselves for the transition, and get support if needed. 

Final Thoughts

As a parent, it can be incredibly challenging to make the decision to change your child’s school. There are some cases in which it is best to change schools, or that this is unavoidable. You might find this transition a bit easier if you switch schools when your child is young, during a natural transition between grade levels or during summer break, and if they allow their child time to process their feelings about the change. If you or your child is struggling with this transition, it may be useful to seek out professional support with a licensed mental health therapist. Changing schools is a very common reason that children present in counseling, and a child therapist will be able to help your child work through their challenging emotions and find hope in their new environment.