Acceptance, Rejection, and Academic Transition:
Helping Your Child Cope with Change
Lea Lewis, Ph.D.
As the testing season for entrance into the Gifted and Enriched Academic Programs comes to an end, many parents have concerns about how to talk to their children about test results and any school changes that may occur as a result.
If your child has been accepted into a new school for the fall, here are some tips to help make the transition go smoothly. It is not uncommon for children, when they move from one school to another, to worry about losing their old friends and wonder if it will be difficult to meet new people. Parents can help by being an active listener. It is important not to negate your child's feelings. If they are worried, show empathy and let them know that you are there to help. Parents, think back to when you were in school and made a change either from elementary school to high school or moved from one location to another. Can you share your experiences with your child? When talking with your child, remain positive and talk to him/her about the qualities they possess that makes them a good choice for being a classmate's friend. Having inner confidence will make them feel more comfortable meeting others.
When children begin the school year in a new classroom, one of the first things they can do to meet others is to smile and say hi. Other children like to be noticed and when your child approaches others, that is the first step to making new friends. Once your child has been in the new classroom for a couple of days, then he/she can greet classmates by name. If your child has concerns about losing friendships, talk to them about making a phone tree and plan structured activities with their old classmates. Offer to help your child maintain friendships by getting to know their friends' parents and inviting their classmates to your home.
When students leave a general classroom and move into an accelerated academic environment, parents can assist by structuring their study time, getting to know their new teachers and finding out about class expectations. Success is best achieved by staying on top of your child's assignments and making sure that communication with their teacher is established early in the school year. Children and teens can become easily overwhelmed with a new routine, new classmates, and a fast-paced curriculum. Planning on your part will provide structure to a situation that can, at first, seem overwhelming to a child.
For children who did not get accepted into a school of their choice, family members need to realize that their reaction to the bad news is important. Although at times children can seem indifferent, they are still developing a sense of self, and they do seek approval from their family. Gifted and Enriched Academic Programs receives many more applications then there are seats available. If your child did not make it into a specific program, remain calm. If you, as a parent, are angry and frustrated that your child did not make it into a program, these feelings can create stress in your child. You may need to talk about your feelings with a friend or a relative. If this is the case, discuss your feelings when your child is not present. If your child feels disappointed, validate your child's feelings. Learning to handle disappointment is a prerequisite to learning anger control as an adult. Sharing with your child times when you were disappointed helps your child know that you understand. Parents should also remember that everyone handles disappointment differently. Some children feel better if they can go and get ice cream, have a parent or relative take them to a movie, play a game, go for a swim, or talk with a friend. Some children prefer to be alone and, if this is the case, it is perfectly acceptable to give them the time and space they need.