I walk into the crowded cafeteria and scan the room looking for an open table. Suddenly all eyes are on me. The huge room goes quiet. Other students have stopped mid-sentence and mid-bite to look at me, the new kid.
I feel my face flush and know my cheeks are turning red. I’ve suddenly forgotten how to breathe. No, this is not a nightmare. It’s my first day of school.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, more than 2,000,000 families with children between the ages of 6 and 17 move around the United States every year. With those statistics, chances are your child is not the only new kid at school.
Still, it’s never easy being the new kid, leaving the safety of your home and stepping onto the grounds of that intimidating and different school. With each step, it gets harder and harder to breathe. You break out into a cold sweat. No one knows you and yet everyone seems to be staring. You feel so alone.
Fortunately, being the new kid doesn’t have to be terrifying. By following a few simple tips your child can be the new kid he or she wants to be.
- Get the lay of the land. Take your child to visit the new school, preferably when no one else is there or by getting a tour. Then find out where your child’s classes are, as well as where to find one’s locker, the library, the gym, the restrooms and other places your child will frequent. Once your child becomes familiar with the new school, he won’t be disoriented and distracted by the sea of new faces when that first day arrives. Instead, he’ll know where he is and where he’s going.
- Observe. Next is the observation period. Encourage your child to take notice of other students’ clothes. Does he want to wear the type of clothes everyone else is wearing? Keep in mind that what may be trendy in one area of the country may not be in another as trends vary from city to city and state to state. Does your child want to do his own thing and be different? Your youngster might be surprised to find out that what he thought was different is what everyone else is doing at his new school.
- Pinpoint who he is. During your child’s observation period, what group grabbed his attention and looked like fun people to associate with? Ask your child who he wants to hang out with predominately, such as the athletes, the drama club, the popular group or the academic crowd. Is your child interested in playing basketball, writing poetry, taking part in volunteering activities or participating on the student government? As your child may want to partake in different activities, the options are endless. Explain to your child that he can reinvent himself and be who he wants to be. He can be who he truly is. Changing schools is a great chance to start over. Whether he thought he needed to or not, now your child can.
- Make friends. Once your child has decided on the group he wants to hang out with, prompt him to get involved with the particular group. Even if the group had tryouts or elections the year before, encourage your youngster to get involved anyway. Find out who the advisors are and see what you or your child might be able to do. The more time your child spends around the people he wants to hang out with, the more likely he’ll become friends with those people.
- Develop lasting bonds. Explain to your child that he can slowly make his way into the group he favors. He can scope out his new friends in his classes and sit next to them when there’s not assigned seating in an amicable way. New kid Amanda said: “The hardest part about being new was that everyone had already grouped up. I felt like I didn’t fit anywhere. There was no room left for me in any of the groups.” But there is always room when you are truly a good fit.
- Be social. Remind your child that while he is infiltrating his way into the group of his choice, he should make friends in various groups. As early as elementary school, and throughout life, the more people you know the more fun you are likely to have. The key to making friends is to find a common interest. Have your child ask potential friends a question or two and get a read of how open they are to chatting before finding find a common interest. Remind your child to be friendly, make eye contact and smile at fellow students or even say hello.
- Lastly, tell your child to look confident. It doesn’t matter if he is feeling it or not…just look it. After all, your child is the cool, mysterious new kid.