Helping Your Child Adjust to a New Class
When Marissa discovered at her back to school “Meet and Greet” that she had been placed in a different fourth grade class than all of her third grade friends (including her BFF), she began sobbing.
I hugged her, and after a while I said, “It’s really disappointing that you’re not in the same class as your friends this year.” The sobs turned to sniffles.
I pointed out that she’d see her friends during recess and lunch and that we’d have play dates with them on the weekends. In that moment, I knew there was nothing I could say to convince her that everything would be ok.
Though I felt the depths of my daughter’s disappointment, I also knew that getting through this experience would build up her strength and her character. I trusted that she’d rise to the occasion of managing her circumstances.
As it turned out, Marissa made three new BFFs that year. She also established a close relationship with her teacher and excelled academically and socially, while still adjusting to her parents' divorce.
Had I marched into the Principal’s office requesting a class change, I would have robbed Marissa of the opportunity to realize her ability to overcome a social and emotional challenge and to grow through the experience.
Now that I work in her school, I appreciate the many factors that the teachers and administrators take into consideration when creating class lists. They don’t just randomly assign students to groups. Rather, they carefully evaluate how the academic abilities, learning styles, personalities, behavior, gender, friendships, and other student needs complement or conflict with one another.
What should you do if your child is placed in a class with a teacher or student he doesn't like?
1. Stay calm.
When you overreact or get emotional, your child can become even more upset. Staying calm sends the message that everything will be ok.
2. Validate his experience.
Let him know you understand his distress and that his feelings are acceptable — whatever they are.
3. Wait and see.
Give your child some time (at least four weeks) to adjust to his class before you make any changes. Teachers need time to create a classroom community, establish routines, and get to know the students.
4. Don't make assumptions or compare your situation to that of other kids.
Every student and situation is different, so talking to other moms about their child's teacher, class, or experience won't inform you about your own. I've found that talking about these issues with other parents tends to create a lot of unnecessary drama.
5. Request a meeting with your child's teacher.
If, after a month, you still have concerns, clearly communicate them to the teacher and be open to working with him/her toward a resolution. After that, if you still aren't satisfied, talk to the appropriate department chair or the school principal. If you get to this point in the process and the principal doesn't agree to make the change, continue working with the teacher and/or school counselor to identify strategies to help your child manage.
Has your child ever been unhappy in a new class? How did you handle it? What was the outcome? Leave a comment below and let me know!
Wishing you a drama-free start to the new school year,