Resistance to a New School
Q: My 12-year-old son is an academically gifted 7th grader. We were lucky enough to secure a spot for him in the local magnet school. My husband and I feel that attending this school will benefit our son a great deal.
However, my son is very much against changing schools. We have told him that he has to attend this school and that he doesn't get to make such a decision himself. He is very angry with us. We have assured him that he will still be able to see his friends from his old school. He is very self-assured, strong-willed, and independent. I don't know how long he can maintain his anger towards us before he finally decides to fit in and make friends at the new school.
It makes me sad to see him so unhappy and I wonder what long-term effects this change will have on him. He knows that this change is a choice and not a necessity, so the fact that other kids have changed schools (due to relocation) has little effect on his feelings in that regard. Thanks for your help.
A: Like many youngsters, your son would rather remain in a setting where he is comfortable, probably does superior work, and has friends. Most 12 year olds do not have the capacity to make decisions that involve future planning; they fail to see the advantages in giving up the known for the unknown. You state that your son is independent and stubborn. He could, if he chose to do so, fight you all the way, refuse to study, and continue his angry tirade against you — in other words, "cut off his nose to spite his face."
On the other hand, he may come to understand that his academic future is important and accept the challenges presented by a superior academic institution. I have found that discussing the pros and cons of the proposed change gives children a choice. In doing this, your son would see that you encourage his participation in whatever decision you make. Most likely, he will subsequently be happy with a more stimulating school environment.
Kids have a remarkable capacity to adapt. Think of those children who are at first homesick in a sleep-away camp, but who grow by the end to love it and their newly acquired friends so much they are loathe to leave. Similarly, your son will likely adapt to, and ultimately blossom in, his new environment.