As schools start up again across the country, many military kids will be facing a common predicament – being the new kid in class. My two kids faced that very same situation this year and it didn’t come without a bit of anxiety, for them and their parents! While the kids worried about making new friends and fitting in with their new classmates, we worried about whether their new school would provide a good education, caring teachers, and a whole host of other concerns.
The weeks leading up to the first day of school were a bit stressful, but it was also an exciting time. The kids did worry about making new friends. But they were excited about the possibilities that awaited them. They couldn’t wait to play on the fun playground they had seen and they were eager to participate in the extra activities that the school offered. As the first day of school neared, the worries overtook the excitement and the kids began to get nervous.
How can we, as parents, help our kids feel more comfortable and confident being the new kid in school? It is normal for kids to feel a bit of anxiety and fear over being a new kid in a new school. But here are some easy things we can do to ease their fears.
Visit the New School – All summer we drove by the new school to help them become familiar with it. The kids saw the playground and the building, and they could not wait to get inside to explore! A few weeks before the first day of school, we took the kids to meet the principal and get a tour of the building. This was a huge help instead of waiting until Meet-the-Teacher night when they building was full of other parents and kids. This also gave the principal a chance to get to know the kids so that on the first day they had an adult in the building that they knew and were comfortable with.
Share Your Experiences – Growing up, my family moved all the time. We were not military, but my dad’s work took us all over the place and I was the new kid every few years. I loved it. But I also had the same fears that my kids were experiencing. I was able to share with them how I felt and how I handled each situation I encountered. While my experiences were years ago and would not be identical to what my kids would experience, it showed them that I survived being a new kid and that they were not alone.
Get Involved – If your situation allows, get your kids involved in activities or sports during the summer months. This will help give kids the chance to meet other kids who might be in their class and give them someone they already know on that first day of school. Meeting other families in the neighborhood is also a great way to meet kids who could potentially be in their class. Giving kids a chance to get to know other kids in a setting outside the school will help them be more relaxed and feel more confident on that first day.
Put on a Good Front – I know that I had my own fears and anxieties about my kids starting at a new school, but I tried very hard to not let those fears show. If I voiced my fears to the kids, they would pick up on some of them and turn them into their own fears. They had enough to worry about; they did not need to add my worries to their load!
Listen – The most important thing that we can do for our kids during this difficult time is to listen. Let them talk and really hear what they are trying to say. If it is something that needs to be dealt with, then intervene, but sometimes all kids need is to just be heard and they feel better. Validate their fears and then help them work through the situation.
As much as we want to shield our kids from any painful experiences, we have to let our kids go and experience life. We can’t go to school with them (as much as we might wish we could!) but we can be there for them at home. Knowing that they have their loving family at home for them can go a long way in helping them get through those first few days as the new kid, as well as the other tough situations they will encounter in life. We can’t fix everything and we can’t prevent them from ever experiencing pain, but we can be there with a hug and love when they need a soft place to land.