Our world is always fluid, now more than ever, which can bring uncertainty into our daily adult lives. For kids still building core skills to manage life, or what I like to call their “tool bag,” change can be all-consuming.

Being the “new kid” at school is something most of us parents have been through at least once, but I will be the first to admit it has been a very long time (and I’m not willing to share just how long). During the pandemic, I homeschooled my son and when it was time to reenroll in a traditional school, he voiced some concerns about being the new kid at school. I tried to brush the moment over and told him he would be fine, but after he continued to verbalize his internal anxieties, I took a step back and put myself in his shoes. First, I visualized myself starting my new job and remembered what it felt like not to know anyone. I sat with those thoughts for a bit and then I reached way back in my memories from when I was the new kid at school and remember how that felt. It took both activities for me to really see how my son was being impacted by this change. Yes, worrying about changing schools and being the new kid is completely normal, but it doesn’t mean the matter should not be addressed. As a parent, it is important that we listen to our kids, even when we think we don’t have time or that the situation is not really that big of a deal.

Common Concerns of the New Kid at School

  • Will the other kids like me?
  • Will anyone sit with me at lunch?
  • Will I understand what they’re doing in class, or will I be behind in the lessons?
  • Will I like my teachers? Will they like me?

What can we do as parents to help ease our kids into their new schools? As a provider who works predominantly with military families that have children who transition schools on average nine times before graduating, I have some ideas:

First and foremost, always remember to share the positives with your child, because I promise they are usually focusing on the scary stuff- the negatives.

Positives of Changing Schools

  • You get to make a fresh start.
  • You get to make new friends.
  • You can get involved in new activities.

Then, communicate with your child the tools they need to be successful during this transition. Give them something to have in their imaginary pocket (imaginary toolbox) and give them what they need to make their way. If it helps, work with them to make a tangible list that they can come back to. I have included a list below to help you out. In my experience, many times kids are just nervous about talking to new people, both their own age and authority figures, such as teachers and other adult helpers. Role-playing some scenarios that they may encounter as the new kid will help build their confidence. Change brings growth, and without growth, we would never have the opportunity to fill our “tool bag” with strengths to manage what’s to come.

Tips for Parents That Can Help with Being the New Kid at School

  • Talk about it, remind them that talking about their fears can make them less scary. Let them know that you are available to listen, but also encourage them to share concerns with other safe family members.
  • Call the new school ahead of time and set up a tour for both the student and the parents. If your child will ride the bus, take a pre-bus pick-up drive to get a better idea of the bus stop. You could even drive the bus route.
  • Visit the school’s website and find out as much as you can about it. You could even make it into a family scavenger hunt. Here are a few ideas of what you could hunt for:
  • What are the school’s colors?
  • What are the school rules?
  • How big is the school?
  • What kind of sports activities are available?
  • Is there a school newspaper or yearbook?
  • What kind of clubs are available?
  • Work with the child to pick out their own elective classes, or simply do some research ahead of time so they know who their teachers will be.
  • Let the child help pick out their new school supplies, which with help with giving them some control over the new situation and increase positive excitement.
  • Encourage your child to take some time to journal their current feelings, as well as reflect on past successes.

Here are suggestions for kids on how to make new friends:

  • Smile and be friendly to everyone you meet; this behavior will go a long way.
  • Join clubs, get active at school and in your community.
  • Participate in sports, both team sports and individual sports
  • Take group classes in school, or in the community.
  • Spend time at a local park or playground, maybe bring a ball or jump rope with you.
  • Be a good listener, everyone appreciates someone who listens.
  • Stay positive when talking with others,
  • Ask people about themselves, and really try to focus on what they share.
  • Accept people as they are, we all have a story.
  • Be helpful to others, look for ways to help.
  • Give compliments and find ways to make others feel good.

Tips for Kids on How to Talk to New People

  • Remember to smile.
  • Take a deep breath and jump right in.
  • Try to speak slowly.
  • Make your voice clear and strong.
  • Take your time, there is no need to rush.
  • Do your best not to worry about being nervous.