reshma-postby Reshma Shah, M.D.

After 15 years in Cleveland, Ohio, I now live in California with my husband and children. Over the weekend I returned to Cleveland for a quick visit.  It was a bit of surreal experience.  Having moved to California so recently, I found myself not knowing exactly where “home” was.  My old neighborhood did not seem to belong to me anymore and yet I’m not fully settled into my new surroundings.

reshma-2As I think about our family’s transition, moving to a new city and leaving behind much loved friends, it occurred to me that it’s a transitional time for many families.  Whether it’s a cross country move, a new job, or as is the case for so many kids right now, a new school.  Jumping from elementary, to middle and (yikes!) high school can present many challenges.  For some kids, even moving to a different teacher within the same school can prove to be traumatic.  It may mean a loss of friends and a struggle to gain a sense of belonging.

So, at the start of this school year, whether your kids are going through big changes like ours or smaller ones like adjusting to a new school, I thought I’d share some tips to help us all get through it.

1. Get up a little earlier.   This sounds simple and maybe even a little silly but rushing around in the morning only adds stress.  Having a little extra time in the morning will allow you to be more available to your kids as they prepare for the day ahead of them.

2. Maintain routines and rituals.  I think the start of school is time when we can all use a little comfort and predictability — whether it’s a favorite breakfast or Tuesday night tacos.  Especially when families are going through big changes, these small routines can make things seem more familiar.

3. Let them have a say.  They may not have had a say in where the family was moving or who their new teacher would be but let them take control of the things that are available to them like the color of their backpack, choosing fall sports, and maybe even dropping violin for a bit.  Decide which choices you feel comfortable letting your kids have a say in.  If your stuck for ideas, ask them!

4. Be positive.  Children take our lead.  If we project a positive attitude, it can only help them.  Focus on the things they have to look forward to and maybe even work together to plan fun weekend and after school activities.

5. Don’t minimize.  His struggles may seem small on the outside but are huge on the inside.  Take the time to really listen and show empathy for the experience he is going through.  If he worries that he will never make new friends, acknowledge his sadness and how hard it must be for him.  Rationalizing and trying to convince him that he will make friends in no time may make him feel that you don’t really understand what he is going through.

6. Take care of yourself.  If your family has gone through some big changes, you may be on edge yourself.  Sometimes we get so busy taking care of everyone else’s needs that we forget to take care of own.  For me, if I don’t create time for yoga, an early morning walk or even time to read, I find that I have less patience.  If parents are not happy, kids pick up on it.

7. Hold on to old friendships and make room for new ones.  Find ways to stay connected to old friends.  Whether it’s emailing, face time, or gold old fashioned snail mail, those connections are special and worth hanging on to.  If it’s reasonable for your family, even consider planning a visit.   Encouraging your kids to participate in a sport or after school activity can be a great way to make new friends.

8. Lastly, have patience (something I say to myself all the time!).   I anticipate a lot of bumps along the way.  Good days, interspersed with tearful ones.  Transitions can be a challenging time for families but, ultimately, challenge equals learning and growth.

I miss my friends and community dearly but know that I will form new friendships and connections in the months to come.

reshmashahReshma Shah, M.D.
A pediatrician. A mother. A wife. A daughter. A sister. A friend. A teacher. A student.
For more of Dr. Reshma Shah’s posts, visit The FamilyTable

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