The move to a new school district is traumatic enough for your children without adding the pressure of finding new friends. Between the boxes, the setup of utilities, and your own inherent changes, you may have forgotten that your little people may be terrified of going to a new school, especially if you move in the middle of the school year. Here are some suggestions to help them overcome the challenge of making new friends:
1. Show your child through your example how to make new friends. Take her with you when you go grocery shopping so she can see how you talk with people you’ve never met, perhaps asking for directions to a specific product. Then when you get in the car, discuss how the new “friend” was helpful, kind, and not at all scary!
2. Discuss your children’s interests and encourage them to join a club, team, or band. Yes, it may be the middle of the year, but most people, kids included, will open up if they see someone new who shares their own interests. This applies to parents, as well. Join a new church or temple, find a parents’ support group, or go to the local library and find a listing of the local interest groups.
3. Get to know your new neighbors. Surely there are others who have children in the same grade as yours. Invite them over for a play date and monitor the interaction. If you see your child shrinking into the corner, make a suggestion about which game to play. Avoid suggesting which TV show or movie to watch because that doesn’t encourage conversation and interaction.
4. Your child probably doesn’t want to hear this advice, but it is generally the way to go: “Just be yourself.” If your kids try to too hard to be like the kids in the new school, they may find that they don’t like themselves very much. Show them that they can find other children with similar interests by listening to conversations around them. However, also help them to understand that they shouldn’t interrupt the conversation with their own experiences. They should wait a bit and then show the others that they have a similar interest.
5. Brainstorm the qualities of a good friend, perhaps the qualities of the friends they left at the old school. Help them to see that people are pretty much the same all over and the likelihood of finding a friend with characteristics they enjoy is quite high.
6. Read books about making friends. Oxygen Finds Friends is the perfect example of an outsider looking to fit in!
Strong friendships are important to good mental health. If you see that your child is not making any friends by the end of the first month in the new school, talk to the counselor at your child’s school and get professional help. That person may be able to set up a meet and greet with a few children she knows would enjoy helping a new child adjust.
Author: Renee Heiss