Children tend to adapt relatively quickly to new settings, especially in the early grades. Although, transitioning to a new school for an elementary school child is easier, and for a middle school child harder, for the same reason. It’s all about relationships. Middle school children are more peer focused, and separating from their established peer group can be more of a challenge for them. However, for younger children, it is the relationship with the teacher that is most important. Children in the earlier grades tend to establish friendships based on proximity, which is why they identify all the children in their class as their “friends.”
When it comes to the development of relationships, both student-to-teacher, and student-to-student, private school, and especially the Far Hills Country Day School, has significant advantages. The private school, institutionally, has a small class size and is focused on the child. The private school’s mandate is to meet the child’s needs. Unfortunately, the public school’s mandate is to meet the rules and regulations of the State, which are sometimes unintentionally opposed to the individual needs of the child. Private school teachers are focused on the child, and not the State tests or other dictates.
It is interesting to note that neurologically, when children feel connected to caring adults, their brains are more available for learning and achieve more. This also serves to increase confidence in themselves and resilience. In some ways, it is counter-intuitive that the closer the relationship and the more support a student gets from their teacher, the more independent they are in learning. Far Hills values the relationship between teacher and child, which is why this relationship is established from the beginning of the child’s entrance to the school and makes the transition an easy and positive one. Additionally, it is every staff member’s goal to know and connect with each child, so that students, and their parents, can feel a sense of community and belonging.
Student-to-student relationships are also valued. Smaller class size, teacher attention to students’ social and emotional development, and collaborative academic experiences enables development of peer relationships. Far Hills has a commitment to students feeling a part of their community. Because of this, new students are welcomed and their connection to their peers is deliberately facilitated. It is recognized that some children take more time to feel comfortable with their peers, and this is why the attention, patience, and support of the teacher can give the child the time they need to adapt. In addition, as noted, students tend to view all children in their class as their friend, and therefore they are open to establishing new relationships. The smaller class size is less overwhelming for more reserved students, and the frequency of student-to-student contact through work and informal interactions hastens familiarization with their peers leading to authentic, lasting friendships.
Dr. Steven Tobias is the Director of the Center for Child & Family Development in Morristown, NJ, and the School Psychologist for Far Hills Country Day School. Dr. Tobias hosts parenting workshops and facilitates discussion groups for the Far Hills Country Day School parent community. He has over 25 years of experience working with children, parents, families, and schools.
Dr. Tobias provides treatment for a range of emotional, social, and behavioral problems:
Difficulty with emotional regulation, such as anxiety, depression, and anger
Behavioral difficulties including oppositional behavior and attention deficits
Difficulty establishing peer relationships and social skills
Family conflict and parenting
Eating and toileting resistance related to anxiety
Dr. Tobias has coauthored several books, including Emotionally Intelligent Parenting, Raising an Emotionally Intelligent Teenager, and Social Problem Solving: Interventions in the Schools. He is often a contributor to the radio station NJ 101.5 and has given lectures throughout the country on topics related to children’s emotional development and parenting.