Being the “new kid” can be scary, but it can also be an adventure, a new beginning. It all depends on the folks involved. Here are some ideas – for the new kid, for the established kids, and for the adults – to help make such an important change easier if your family’s just moved.
For the new kid.
- Help your child try to be open to new customs, new friends, and new experiences. Rather than saying, “That’s not the way we did it in my old school,” have them try to look at it with an open mind. A chip on the shoulder never works. Encourage them to smile instead, even if they don’t feel like smiling.
- Help them to try to be curious, interested, and patient. Listening more than talking is a good strategy for the early days.
- Help them to try to see the adventure in their new school. Of course they miss their old friends, maybe they’re feeling lost and lonely, and maybe they’re unsure about how to behave. That’s normal. But, this can also be a time for starting over.
For the established kids.
- Help them try to be welcoming, open, and accepting. Smiling helps.
- Help them try to put themselves in the new kid’s shoes. Empathy is a lifelong skill and gift.
- Ask them to invite the new kid join them and their friends at lunch, on the playground, on the school bus, and before and after school.
- Have them show the new kid around – lockers, bathrooms, gym, cafeteria, playground, library.
- Encourage them to ask questions. Put the new kid at ease by showing a real interest in him or her. “Where did you go to school before?” “You must miss your friends, huh?” “What’s your favorite sport/games/subjects/toys, etc…?” “Do you have brothers and sisters?” “What’s it like moving to a new neighborhood and school?”
There are roles for us adults, too. Teachers need to be alert to how new kids are fitting in, how the others are treating them, and how they’re adapting. It’s helpful to pair new kids with partners and study buddies. Some kids are exceptionally good at this.
Parents play a significant role, too, of course. Daily chats after school – conversational and informal – show you’re aware of this new life and you’re supportive, encouraging, and eager to help. Keeping in touch with the teacher is always smart. Email, text, phone calls, and old fashioned notes all work and show the teacher you’re available.
Being the new kid can help build socialization skills, resilience, adaptability, and confidence. It can also be stressful. There’s plenty we can all do to make this as smooth a transition as possible.