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. 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. 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 post-move. With some added planning, they’ll no doubt make the transition like pros. Here are you some tips to help your middle schoolers during a move:
#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. Plus, 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, consider signing them up for their chosen activities in your new town pre-move. Not only will they have a chance to make new friends, but you’ll get a real sense of the community by sitting on the sidelines.
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 to moving 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. Also, 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 time to exploring your future suburb’s weekend go-tos. Focus on finding new places for your child to get excited about. After establishing a routine that involves a scoop or a side of fries post-house searches, your child will start looking forward to their time in suburbia.
#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
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 of the move 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.
Why a Mid-Year Move Can Be the Right Move For Your Family
We hear it all the time. And, on the surface, it makes sense – settle in over the summer and your kids will be ready to go, with lunches packed and backpacks on, on the first day of school. But this traditional wisdom doesn’t always hold true. In fact, we’d say there are just as many benefits — and maybe more — to moving mid-way through the year.
“We see so many clients who panic when they miss the spring selling season and don’t have their kids settled before the school year,” says Allison Levine, Suburban Jungle Director of Communications & NYC Strategist. “But in our experience, making a move after the first day comes with some amazing benefits for parents and kids.”
So why are we all about the “midyear move?” Consider this:
Benefit: They’ll be the new kid in a town (and that’s a good thing)
The first month of school, everything is new: new teachers, new routines, new classmates. In the midst of all this newness, it’s easy for the new kid to get lost in the shuffle.
“I’ve worked with so many families whose kids started at a new school partway through the year, and every single one ended up just fine,” says Allison. “In some ways, it’s actually a really great thing: The teachers are already in a routine so they can give your new student some extra attention and most kids are excited to see a fresh face in the classroom and are eager to reach out and make a new friend.”
Benefit: There’s no potential for summertime “lag”
Depending on where you land, summer can be a sleepy time in the suburbs. As families leave for summer vacation and kids head to camp, even the most bustling ‘burb can feel like a ghost town — and that can make it hard to get a sense of what your new community is really like.
“If you move in the fall, winter or spring, when everyone’s around, you’ll get a chance to be a part of all the fun activities that make suburban living so great, like fall festivals, holiday happenings and so much more, right off the bat,” Allison adds. “Plus, after school clubs, sports and classes are in full swing during the school year, so your kids can slip right into the activities that interest them and start making new friends.”
Benefit: It’s easier to find community
If you move while school’s in session, you’ll have an instant community of classmates and parents to tap for ideas on where to take lessons, what camps to sign up for and more. In fact, having time to settle in before school starts can sometimes backfire, as Amy, a mom in Sea Cliff, NY, found out the hard way.
“We moved in and enrolled our then-five-year-old in a local day camp and dance school. Between that and having two kids her age on the block, she didn’t really meet anyone in our school until September rolled around. We found out later her day camp and gymnastic school weren’t the go-tos for families in our town. So she met lots of kids, but they were from neighboring districts.”
Benefit: There may be less competition
Everyone wants to move in the spring – and that means the competition for homes is fierce, especially during the spring market. But if you house hunt in a different season, there may be fewer buyers in the market, which could help give you an advantage.
If you’re stressing over the right time to buy a home, remember this: The right time to buy a home is when you find the right house in the right town for you and your family.
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 with. 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!
Suburban Jungle is Here to Help
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 free strategy session with our innovative suburbs strategy team.