Being The New Kid

by Marilynn Halas on August 21st, 2013
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Happy-First-Day-of-SchoolIt happens to all of us and the good news is that we all get through it, but being the new kid can still make you fell like a long-tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs.  Whether your child is entering pre-school, just moving in, or preparing for the unmitigated joy that is Middle School, being the new kid can be a scary experience.

Pre-Schoolers and Kindergarteners might worry about being away from Mom and Dad, zipping up their own coats, or the all important, finding the bathroom. (Admit it, we sometimes worry about that one even now, but I digress.)

Kids entering Middle or High School have different concerns, fitting in, making friends and of course, finding the bathroom.  (Are you seeing the common ground we share?)

Then there is the special joy of being new to a school in a grade where you think everyone else is already settled.  Transfers from across town or even another country face a special set of worries from meeting new people, meeting new expectations and wait for it… You guessed it… finding the bathroom.

We want our kids to be happy and successful in school and for them to feel secure enough to try new things and even learn something, so how can we help?  It sounds like a daunting task when you think about all the variables you cannot affect.  So many unknowns from new teachers, new peers and new communities, but you are not without choices.

We can choose to help our kids get comfortable with our new school in lots of ways.  Here are some tips that have worked for me.

  1. Don’t be a stranger.  Visit the new school often before school even starts.  Take your little one to the playground, take a walk around campus and even try to meet some other students before the first day.  Lots of schools host Welcome Back events where young children can meet their teacher, classmates and even see the classroom.  If your school offers this chance, take it.  It is a great way to lesson the anxiety by getting more familiar with the school.   Feel free to reach out to other parents too.  If your child is starting a big entry year, (read Kindergarten, Middle or High School), you are not the only one who is new.  Reach out to each other and you will soon have a buddy for yourself as well as showing your little one how to make friends.
  2. Talk about it.  It’s easy to imagine what your child might be concerned about, but unless you’re a mind reader, (and if you are, could you come with me to my next pitch meeting?), you can never know for sure what your child is thinking.  Try not to project what you are worried about, rather, ask open-ended questions and listen to your child actual concerns.  Maybe he isn’t worried about meeting new people, maybe it’s being sick on the school bus that has him worried.  Ask the questions and listen for the answers, they might just surprise you.
  3. Embrace your inner Spin Doctor.  This is about good old-fashioned marketing.  Talk up the good points of the school and the fun of trying something new.  Chances are your Kindergartener has no idea she should be nervous, enjoy the joy of unblemished potential.  You chose this school for your child.  You have good instincts, trust yourself enough to know you made a good choice.  Share with your child how much fun the playground is at school, how friendly the teacher will be and most of all how happy you are that your child gets to go to such a great place.  All of this will help maintain a positive attitude of gratitude and that goes a long way toward a great year.
  4. Be a good guest.  Remind your child that, at least in the beginning, the best approach is to be a good guest.  Your new school is, by definition, not your old school.  They will do things differently.  That is okay.  No one likes to feel judged so try to keep an open mind about things in your new school that you didn’t expect.  Better to say, “I’ve never seen it done that way…” than to preach about how much more efficiently your old school handled it.  You are a new member of a community that will have a big impact on your whole family.  Get to know them with an opened mind and a closed mouth when it comes to the way they do things.  Every school is different and most of them know what they are doing pretty well.  If you picked well, then you can afford to give them the benefit of the doubt and give yourself a break.

I guess that is the bottom line of any advice I ever give, trust yourself.  You are a good parent, not a perfect person, but a good parent.  You love your child and so chances are you will make good choices and have good instincts.  Trust your instincts.

Keep me posted.


Categories: General