Transition to a New School
By Sharon Scott, LPC, LMFT
A new school year will soon by upon us. Many kids are excited to get back into school and see old friends. Some relish learning and are anxious for new teachers and material to devour. Other kids are anxious for school due to sporting activities. Then there are the rest of the kids who may be nervous because
1. it’s the first year of a new school;
2. their best friend has moved and they don’t have other close friends;
3. the child is reserved; or
4. they may have some social anxiety.
Meeting new people is difficult for most adults as well. Have you ever arrived at a meeting exactly at the time it begins or hid out in the bathroom just to avoid facing people you don’t know? Most of us have. Therefore a healthy skill to teach your child is how to begin the school year with confidence (or at least faking confidence!).
Yesterday I discussed and role-played this with two sisters, aged 11 and 14, who are beginning a brand new school in a few weeks. We talked about walking with confidence (standing tall), where to sit in the classroom (near front and center and close to a friendly-looking person), and how to greet and begin chit-chatting.
When we began the role-play practice we acted as if we were entering the same classroom and did not know each other. When they walked into my office pretending it was the classroom, one skipped in singing and the other rushed in with head down. We all laughed as they were uncomfortable and did not have a good start. We decided that skipping in might make people think you’re a little kid. And that rushing in with your head down makes you look unfriendly. The next time they were much better and the third try was wonderful.
Now we moved on to greeting: saying a friendly hi and making eye contact. We all did that and then we just stared at one another. They didn’t know what to say next which is typical of many kids. We agreed that saying I’m (name) would be next. And they must be warned that the other kid may not reply with his name if nervous. So you may have to ask And what’s your name?
Now to learn some questions that sound friendly yet not too personal. Their list included:
*Have you been to this school before? If so, add: What did you like about it?
*What’s your favorite subject? Then, Why do you like it?
*Do you plan to play sports or be in band or anything?
*What’s your favorite kind of music?
*What do you like to do for fun?
This is something you can practice with your children and you will be amazed that each time you practice, it becomes easier for them and you see confidence increase. Avoid talking too much or making it too easy for them by starting the conversation. Let them struggle with it which is what we all have to do in real life. The girls left my office laughing and excited about the first day in their new school.
Copyright © 2013, Sharon Scott. No reproduction without written permission from author.
P.S. Please see my other column The Counselor’s Corner about the bad stuff that might happen in school and how to handle that!
The guide for parents/educators on how to peer-proof children and teens is Peer Pressure Reversal: An Adult Guide to Developing a Responsible Child, 2nd Ed.
Her popular book for teens, How to Say No and Keep Your Friends, 2nd Ed., empowers kids to stand out,not just fit in!
A follow-up book for teens, When to Say Yes! And Make More Friends, shows adolescents how to select and meet quality friends and, in general, feel good for doing and being good.
Sharon also has a charming series of five books for elementary-age children each teaching an important living skill and "co-authored" with her savvy cocker spaniel Nicholas who makes the learning fun.Their book on managing elementary-age peer pressure is titled Too Smart for Trouble.