by Madison Linnihan
Military families are no strangers to change, but it’s never easy to uproot your family and move to a new state and to have your children change school districts.
It can be difficult for the parents and the kids, especially if the transition is logistically or culturally challenging. Sometimes it’s hard to know where to begin the process since different schools have different graduation criteria, immunization requirements and term start and end dates, so it can be pretty overwhelming. Luckily, if you’re relocating, there are a few things that you can do to make your family’s transition a little easier
Do Your Research
First things first, before transitioning to a new school district or state, be sure to do your research. Different schools have different requirements for graduation and different states require different vaccines for entering the public school system. If your child has an Individualized Education Program (IEP), know that you will need to set up a meeting with the new school. When moving from district to district, or even state to state, the new school must uphold similar accommodations until the parents and student meet with the school to work out the new plan. Be sure to talk with your kids about the upcoming changes and encourage them throughout this process.
Advice for Parents
Julie Savage, who moved around a lot with her family with the military, first as a child and later as a mother, says that her best advice for parents is to “move as early as possible in the summer and get the kids involved in your new community, whether through the summer DYA (Dependent Youth Activities) events, a local church, scouting, or sports activity. She explains that it’s important to help your kids get involved and meet new friends, especially when they’re young.
She explains that some transitions are harder than others, and it’s not always easy for children to be the “new kid.” She says that “In a military town, especially, the new kid only knows that he/she is new,” so it’s especially important for kids to join group activities where they can meet new friends and even other new kids.
Julie notes that while her kids hated moving when they were little, they grew to appreciate the lessons that they learned along the way. She says, “When the kids were young and we lived in Europe, I dragged them everywhere! They complained. But now that they are older, they thank me for showing them the world and encouraging them to think globally. They realize that having the opportunity to see many aspects of culture has afforded them a global perspective. It’s a good thing!”
Advice for Younger Kids
Jacob Casper, Julie’s son, who is now a senior in college, moved around primarily when he was in elementary school, so he has some advice for younger kids transitioning to a new school. Jacob says that the first thing that younger children should do is get on the teacher’s good side. The transition is a lot easier when there is an adult helping you through it. He also says, “Don’t be afraid to share your interests with other kids. You’ll find someone else who likes the same things as you. Even if you don’t, being open and friendly is one of the better ways to try and start making friends at that age.” He explains that exploring new interests is one of the best ways for kids to adjust to a new school.
Also, if your family is moving overseas, encourage your children to pick up the foreign language. Younger kids are able to acquire languages faster than adults, and knowing another language is a great skill to have. There are a lot of ways to help your children adjust to a new state, school, and culture, so be sure to encourage them to explore new interests and use their imagination.
Advice for Older Kids and Teenagers
High school and middle school are challenging years for kids who stay in one place, but they can be even more stressful for kids who move frequently. While it’s never easy for kids to move around and constantly make new friends and adjust to different cultures and communities, Julie and Jacob have the advice to help with the transition.
“Find something physical you like doing,”: says Jacob. “Being on teams is a good way to make friends and can also teach discipline.” He also encourages everyone to try martial arts at least once. “I’ve been doing different styles of boxing on and off for 10 years and you get benefits similar to those of team sports for physical activity and discipline,” he says. “But sometimes it’s nice to be able to spar and compete with your peers.”
Julie advises that “many positions in the school activities are already decided in the Spring of prior year (for example, Student Government), so sign up for an elective that gets you involved, like yearbook staff or the school newspaper.” Additionally, she recommends volunteering in the school library or guidance office to interact with as many students as possible. Making new friends is one of the most challenging aspects of moving, but as soon as your child starts to adjust to the new school, everything gets a lot easier.
Make Your Move a Success
Between all the boxes, moving trucks, and mountains of paperwork, every parent wants to help their child successfully transition into a new environment. Kids will need their parents’ help to adjust to all the new changes, and you can make it easier on them if you encourage them to join activities and make new friends. No matter what age your kids are, help them find an activity that they’re passionate about and encourage them to pursue their interests to meet new friends. At the end of the day, your kids will have a unique skillset that allows them to adapt and overcome last minute changes and big moves.
Vaccination Fast Facts
- All 50 states require children to get diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, polio, measles, and rubella vaccinations.
- Every state except for Pennsylvania and Montana require kids to get a varicella (chicken pox) vaccination.
- Children are also required to get the Hepatitis B vaccination before starting kindergarten in forty-five states and Washington D.C. (the only exceptions to this are Alabama, Maine, Montana, North Dakota, and South Dakota)
- North Carolina and Connecticut are the only two states that require the Hib Vaccine
- Montana requires the least amount of immunizations for children attending public school, with only three mandatory vaccinations: DTaP, IPV, and MMR.
- Connecticut requires the most vaccinations, with a total of nine mandatory vaccines: Hep B, DTaP, Hib, PCV, IPV, Flu, MMR, Varicella, and Hep A.
- Electronic Transfer Exchange
- You can request to have your child’s transcript sent to a new district on studentclearinghouse.com