Cheri M. Gioe, Merrill, Thomas A. | 8/3/2006 2:16:46 AM
Starting the year at a new school can be difficult for youngsters, but that’s exactly the situation many students are facing this year, says LSU AgCenter associate Cheri Gioe.
"Many children in Louisiana may find themselves having to attend a new school this year due to the devastation of hurricanes Katrina and Rita," Gioe says, adding, however, "Parents, family members and friends can play a key role in assisting children as they adapt to their new school surroundings."
Since the storms last fall, thousands of families have been displaced at one point or another, and many still are "on the move" in their attempts to return to their former homes or settle in new areas. In addition, some schools are reopening in devastated areas, while others severely damaged by the storms remain closed.
All that means thousands of students may be facing more changes in the schools they attend this year and in the years to come.
"It is normal for children to feel a mixture of excitement and anxiety before starting a new school," Gioe says. "Parents and family members should acknowledge these feelings and offer comfort and support as well as ways for children to express what they are feeling."
The LSU AgCenter expert also says parents should remember to speak positively about the new school and the underlying reasons why the move is being made in order to help reassure children about the transition to the new school.
Gioe says families can help ease this transition by visiting the school before classes begin to meet the teachers. She also stresses the importance of finding out who to contact if and when there are questions, requesting a copy of the school handbook and reviewing any school rules and regulations with children.
"Many schools offer back-to-school nights or an orientation prior to the beginning of the new school year," she says. "Be sure that you and your child attend these meetings together.
"These meetings are a great way for you and your child to familiarize yourselves with the school campus and to meet teachers, as well as other students and their families."
Gioe is involved in the LSU AgCenter’s "Be Child Care Aware!" educational program, which is designed to educate parents and child-care providers about quality child care. It is funded, in part, through a contract with the Louisiana Department of Social Services’ Office of Family Support.