How to Help Middle School Children Move to the Suburbs
Let’s face it—when you move with kids of any age there are plenty of considerations. From getting registered for soccer to making sure they know a kid or two at the bus stop to managing the childcare scene, there are definitely a few things to think about—and we’ve got your back on all of them.
One of the questions we’ve been getting a lot lately? How to help middle schoolers make the leap from the city to suburbia. Tweens and teens are, likely, more connected to their communities than younger kids and, as a result, may need a little extra support leading up to, during and even post-move—but with some added planning, they’ll no doubt make the transition like pros. Here’s where to start…
#1. Involve Them in Your Suburban Search Process
Bringing your middle schooler along on town tours is a great way to get them excited about the move. By participating early on, your child will experience prospective towns and what they have to offer, first-hand. In our experience, the more a middle schooler knows about where you’re moving and the process itself, the more you can mitigate angst early on—and the more they’ll feel like they’re central to the decision-making of moving during middle school.
#2. Sign Them Up for Extracurricular Activities in the New Town
If your middle schooler is a soccer star, an art lover, or has other passions and interests, consider signing them up for their chosen activities in your new town pre-move. Not only will they have a chance to mix, mingle, and make new friends, but you’ll get a real sense of the community by sitting on the sidelines or picking up post-lessons.
Besides being a good way to engage, putting kids into an activity they’re comfortable with and look forward to, instantly eliminates some of the “newness” of it all. They’ll be diving in from a position of strength versus trying to navigate the landscape, the kids, and a new activity.
#3. Create a Schedule to See Their “Old Friends”
Your middle schooler’s biggest objection is, likely, not wanting to leave friends behind. The reality? It’s probably one of your biggest worries, too.
The simplest way to ease your child’s social worries? Create a get-together schedule before the move that’s full of planned activities with their old friends. Make it a priority to return to the city for friends’ birthday parties and other special events, plus be sure to set a few dates for your middle schooler’s friends to visit them in the suburbs. Your child will have a blast showing their friends around their new home, and discovering all the cool local hangout spots in their new town.
#4. Start Deciding on “Your Spots” in Your New Town
Head out early to grab hot doughnuts at the bakery down the block? Or spend Sundays in “your” booth at the cafe on the corner? Those can also be tough traditions to let go of—until you’ve created a few rival must-dos in the suburbs.
Dedicate a weekend (or two) to exploring your future suburb’s weekend go-tos. Focus on finding new places for your child to get excited about, and encourage them to not compare it to their spots in your hometown. After establishing a routine that involves a scoop or a side of fries post-house searches or Saturday PM Chinese food in your new town, your child will start looking forward to their time in suburbia, and better ease into all that comes next.
#5. Consider The New Middle School’s Grade Breaks
If it’s not essential that you move immediately, you may want to start exploring the suburbs with an eye on the natural school “breaks” in communities. For example, while many districts are K-5 for elementary and 6-8 for middle school, there are plenty of districts where sixth grade is part of elementary school. Other districts start middle school in fifth grade, and high school starts earlier as well.
Many families like to move right ahead of these “breaks”—i.e. after sixth grade if middle school is 7-9, or after fifth if it’s 6-8. In these scenarios, all kids are the “new kids.” While those coming from local elementary schools may know one another, they likely won’t know half or more of their class who’s matriculating from other local schools. This can make getting in the mix much easier.
#6. And of Course, Be Supportive
Tweens and teens form friendships and routines that give them a sense of security, and the thought of those being disrupted can be a serious stressor. Above all, reassure your middle schooler by sharing some of your own worries, and by even telling them exactly how you plan to conquer them. Knowing they aren’t alone will give them a sense of confidence and a feeling that you’re all in this together. Then, focus on those new routines and friendships—the quicker they can be established, the better for your child moving during middle school.
Moving During the Middle of the School Year
For many parents of school-aged children, moving during the summer—after the school year’s ended—is a must. And it makes sense, for sure—kids can wrap up their academic year, and pick up in a new town or district where they’ll spend the warmer months getting the lay of the land and, hopefully, making a few new neighborhood friends. It’s one of the big reasons why spring is such a critical time for families looking to make a move—buy in the spring, move in the summer, start school in the fall.
But is mid-year actually a better time for a big move? While your kids may wind up changing schools during the school year, there are a host of benefits to this particular schedule—and, in many cases, those benefits far outweigh those that come with a summer move! So what are the perks to moving—and changing your kids’ schools—during the year?
#1. Instant Attention—and New Buddies!
Especially in the younger grades, a new student in the classroom equates to instant attention from teachers, administrators and, of course, students. Chances are your child will be assigned a “buddy” on day one, to help her learn the ropes—and have loads of fun while they’re at it. Additionally, most teachers implement plenty of “getting to know you” activities especially for your child—where she’s from, what she likes to do, what kinds of pets she has—which she’ll deliver to a captive audience.
During the summer, kids scatter—to camp, to vacation homes, to grandma and grandpa’s house—and it may be tough for your child to meet kids from her grade prior to September. But joining the class mid-year puts her instantly front-and-center before dozens or, even, hundreds of kids who can’t wait to welcome her to the class!
#2. Birthday Parties for Everyone!
Most schools—and parents—have an “invite everyone” policy for younger grades. That means, even if your child is brand new, he’ll be immediately invited to birthday parties and other activities, starting right away. These parties are a great opportunity for him to immediately expand his social circle and, for you, provide a chance to meet the parents in a casual, fun environment.
#3. The Real Scoop
Going back to school in the fall is tough, whether it’s brand new or not. Starting midyear gives your family a true sense of what the school and the greater community is really like. Summer is always so much more relaxed, laid back and, rarely, indicative of what a town is truly like once the warm weather passes. Jumping in midyear provides an opportunity for an accelerated indoctrination, of sorts, and facilitates a quicker, deeper integration for you and your kids.
Remember, there’s never a perfect time to move—but families shouldn’t rule out anything after September 1st as a no-go moving date! Starting a new school midyear can be scary, but with a little prep and a great attitude it’s a fantastic time to move your family to the suburbs!
General Tips for Moving Your Children to a New School
Remember, changing schools is a huge adjustment for even the most outgoing child—they’re in a new house in a new town with lots of new things to see and do…and now there’s a brand new school (and school bus and teacher and friends) to get acquainted to. Start laying the groundwork in these last few days and weeks and your child’s first few days will go off without a hitch!
#1. Focus on the FUN
Even if your child is nervous about their new school, there are plenty of things that would get any kid excited about day one—think school supplies, back-to-school shopping, school events like football games, and planning that all-important first day of school lunch. Start there! Make planning and prepping a big deal and be sure your child is involved in every step of the process. These little add-ons might be the thing that gives your kid a much-needed boost when the first day jitters set in.
#2. Get Involved
It’s important for your child to be involved in school and community activities, but it’s equally important for them to see that you’re also involved in that same day-to-day. Sign up for a PTA committee, volunteer for the fall festival fundraiser, bake something special for the first day or raise your hand to be a room parent—you being involved in her school will show that you value the transition and that, more importantly, you’re right there with her during this exciting change.
#3. Tout His School’s Best
Do your homework and find out some special attributes of your child’s new school. Often suburban schools have more resources, opportunities and activities than their smaller city counterparts meaning, chances are, there’s something really cool your kid will be eager to try. Check out the school or district’s site and start talking up what will excite him most. It could be an intramural sports team, awesome art studios, field trips or something else—but the more you talk it up the more eager they’ll be for the first day!
There are hundreds of towns to choose from. How do you figure it all out? You simply don’t, without getting a Suburban Jungle Strategist to help you through it all. Schedule here for your strategy session with our innovative suburbs strategy team. All services are completely free.