Growing up, I had two major moves before my teenage years. My family moved to Oklahoma when I was 8 years old, and then we moved to the suburbs of Chicago when I was 12. I have four younger brothers, and we all experienced being the “new kid” at school twice in four years.
We were so lucky to have each other and be able to share stories and empathize with each other’s experiences, however, once we entered our individual classrooms, we were left solo to navigate the process. If you’re child is attending a new school this year, the following are some tips to help your child navigate being the “new kid,” taken from my own experiences.
How to Prepare Your Child to Be the New Kid at School
Validate your child’s feelings about attending a new school
My siblings and I all had different feelings entering the school year as the new kid, and it was helpful that my parents validated all those different feelings for us. Your child may be excited, sad, angry, or even a combo of all these emotions and more. Help them acknowledge those feelings and support them through it. It wasn’t helpful to hear, “Oh, it will be amazing, you’ll love it,” but rather, I felt more comforted when I could say that I was scared and nervous, and I was supported in feeling that way.
Expose them to the new school
If possible, go to the school before starting the school year. Show them the classrooms, bathrooms, lunch rooms, etc. It may help them feel more prepared on the first day. Taking out the unknown may help relieve a lot of the anxiety and worry surrounding those first few days.
Many schools offer a meet-and-greet with teachers before the school year starts, so inquire about the possibility of meeting the teachers before the first day. Additionally, the teacher may be able to share whether your child with have a “buddy” to help them navigate the school on those first few days.
In my personal experience, I was entering a class where I was the first new kid in years, and I truly was the only person who didn’t know the teacher, and having that opportunity before the first day was so comforting.
Prepare them to be the center of attention
As I said above, I was the first new kid in a classroom that had been together since preschool. My parents and neighbors were great in introducing me to classmates the summer before starting school, but that first day was still very overwhelming with meeting so many new people.
At some schools, there are new kids every year, but if your child is one of the only new students in a classroom, there may be plenty of new faces for them, but only one (your child) for the rest of the class. The novelty will pass, but it was helpful for me to know that there would be plenty of people looking to meet me on that first day.
Prepare them for good and bad days
Some days will be good and some days will be hard. Just like with everything in life, you have to have the good and the bad, and neither lasts forever. It won’t feel comfortable right away but it eventually will. It was comforting for me to know that I didn’t have to have it “all figured out” right away. I didn’t need to have best friends right away or even know exactly how I felt about it all. No amount of preparation can ensure that the process goes perfectly, but acknowledging that there will be bad days can help it feel less overwhelming.
Remember kids are resilient and every child is different
Children tend to handle difficult experiences much better than we adults expect. They are built to be resilient. And your child may not have any difficulty at all with being the new kid—and that’s okay too! Each child will process and navigate this experience differently. Regardless, this will be a growing experience for your child, and it will teach them invaluable lessons.
To the parents of children in classrooms with new kids
I was so lucky to enter an incredibly welcoming classroom in both of my moves, and I feel so grateful to those families who raised their children to be welcoming to new friends. If your child has a new kid in their class, encourage them to welcome and include the new children. Even if they don’t develop into close friends, those warm encounters can ease the stress of those first few days. Not every child has to be friends with everyone, but kindness doesn’t cost a thing and can go a long way.