Psychoanalysis, Psychotherapy and
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Adapting to a New School

Adapting to a New School

Children, just like adults, go through a process of adaptation when they encounter new situations and places. How long a child takes to adapt to a new environment will depend on everything from their social intelligence, temperament, ability to trust (both themselves and their caregivers), and general agreeableness. Some children tend to be more extrovert and sociable, while others remain cautious and prefer to explore their environment before making friends. 

Some children experience separation anxiety. This anxiety is usually because of a lack of trust in the caregiver (mother, father, grandmother, babysitter etc.) who is taking them to and from their new school. Children who fear their caregiver will abandon them will obviously feel anxious in their new surroundings. Because of this, it's extremely important to build their trust. They need to feel completely secure in their relationship with you. 

One of the biggest mistakes parents can make is leaving their children at a new school without saying goodbye, to avoid upsetting them and making them cry. Helping them get comfortable in their new environment is far more important. Children are more likely to cry if they don't have a trusting relationship with their caregiver or have been separated from parents too hastily, without being given time to accept their new situation. In such cases, children might need a transitional object, such as a soft toy, to help them deal with this separation. Transitional objects shouldn't be taken from them forcefully, and children should be allowed to go to school with them if possible. 

In order to gain their trust, parents should respond to children’s needs as quickly as possible. If children’s physical or emotional needs aren't recognised, they can feel worthless. If this thought settles in their unconscious, it can affect their life and future relationships. If children trust their parents and caregivers, they will feel confident in new situations such as starting a new school. It's perfectly normal to feel anxious at first, but it will get easier in time as they start forming relationships with their teachers and come to understand that they will always see their parents when they get back home from school.

School aged children are more independent and have usually established their individuality. However, if they haven't developed a sense of trust in themselves and others, they can still cry or act out during the first few days at a new school. If this happens, parents need to act decisively and consistently. They shouldn't talk about the problem near their child, and they certainly shouldn't betray any anxiety or embarrassment about it. Knowing their parents are concerned will only make the child more anxious and the situation more difficult. 

It's very important to make sure that your child is at the right stage of development for starting school. In some cases it's useful to consult a professional. It's not recommended that children start kindergarten before the age of two. Children should have developed a healthy sense of independence before starting school, and this separation from their caregivers doesn't happen until the age of two. If children have gone through this separation process naturally they will be happier at their new school and adapt far more quickly to it.

Uzm. Psikolog Aslı Handan Avşar

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