Assuming you know of the change before your child, you have the opportunity to frame it so your child responds in a positive way. To do this you will certainly have to put yourself in his shoes because it is extremely unlikely that his criteria for what makes a great school will be the same as yours. Even if your child wasn’t happy at his old school, it was familiar and even negative familiar faces and situations can give a child a sense of security. If it was you who wasn’t happy with the school, your child could feel resentful about making a change and react negatively either at the new school or at home or both.
Putting yourself in your child’s shoes means knowing what matters to them about their new school whatever that might be.
Researching the new school on the Internet, local papers, amongst friends and neighbours can throw up interesting titbits of information that can endorse your choice and familiarise your child with the new school.
It is easier to deal with natural change as children move from one school to the next mainly because the previous school prepares them, talks about the change and they usually move on with a cohort of buddies. Schools are usually pretty good at preparing children as they move to their next school and talk about what to expect. Maybe your child already knows children who go there and this helps them to settle in. Often they have a day in the new school before they go there so the surroundings aren’t too unfamiliar.
So how can NLP help you and your child adjust to change? Remember you both have the resources already. What other changes have you experienced? Has your child had to face change in other areas of his life? Does he have a younger sibling? Perhaps he had to adjust to that change. Have you moved house or faced the death of a pet? Invite your child to think about other changes and how he coped with that. He needs confidence to embark on this new challenge and he can access this resource through experiences he has successfully navigated already. You can encourage this by reminding them how well they adjusted to these changes.
If your child is feeling overwhelmed and thinking ‘big chunk’ about the whole aspect of the new school, you can ‘chunk down’ to the detail and talk about the individual aspects of the new school so he can think about them in ‘bite size chunks’ which are easier to cope with. If he is feeling bogged down in all the detail; the uniform, new teachers, different buildings, bus to school, new class and so on, ‘chunk up’ to how exciting the change will be and what going to a new school will mean in terms of new opportunities in general.
If your child likes choices then look at all the options with them, after school clubs, subjects, routes to school, uniform options. If your child prefers process and doesn’t like choices you can make a plan or lists with them of what they need to get for the new school.
If your child is towards thinking, talk about what they have to look forward to and if they are ‘away from thinking’ talk about what they won’t have anymore, maybe a teacher at their old school whom they didn’t much like or the journey to school, there’s bound to be something!
You can use metaphors to put a child at ease about change. Think about the change in their terms and find a suitable metaphor or better still ask them to find a metaphor themselves. Ask them, “what is changing schools like for you?” Some children can express it best by drawing, ask them to draw a picture of themselves in their new school. Some can express it as an animal. What animal are they in their old school and what animal are they in their new school. How do they get to change into that new animal?
If they need help with a metaphor you could suggest one and they will respond in a way that tells you what their metaphor is. They will say “No mum, it’s not like that, it’s like this……..”
Another type of metaphor is the story. Can you tell your child a story about how you adjusted to the change of schools when you were young? Do you have a friend who has told you about their child changing schools and how they overcame their worries? Children love stories especially about people they know. Here’s an example of how this can work.
This sort of story can trigger a response from your child about what could be worrying them and you can then address it. It’s the not knowing, isn’t it, which can be so difficult to work with?
Remember to tune in to whether your child is visual, auditory or kinaesthetic. If they are visual then they will want to look and focus on the uniform, the look of the buildings and see pictures of the school and the teachers. If they are auditory then hearing about it will work best and if they are kinaesthetic, visiting the school and being there for an open day will be important.
Going to a new school is an adventure and some children are braver than others, have more self confidence. You can build their confidence by reminding them of all the things they can do well, the resources they have and the skills they have. Avoid giving them limiting beliefs about themselves. Focus on what they can do and what they will be able to do, get them to think about their desirable outcome. What do they want to achieve at this new school and what are the steps along the way on that journey.
Have you read 'Be a happier parent with NLP' which is a great book for parents and while you're buying yourself a book, how about getting 'NLP for Tweens' for your 10-14yr old which focuses on this time of transition from Primary - Secondary and all the other accompanying changes they experience in their body, with relationships and so on.