The adorable “first day of school” pictures are popping up on feeds everywhere. Cheesy grins, collared shirts, new shoes, and back to school excitement surrounds us. While our children start a new school year, there are new families and students who are walking through our school doors for the very first time.
Our family was just recently the new family on the block. Due to a mid-school year job change, we became the new neighbors and our young boys entered a new school with wide eyes, a lump in their throat, and anxious hearts. I knew vividly how they felt. By the fourth grade, I had moved three times and attended four elementary schools. It seemed as though I was always the new kid. However, for the first time I was the parent of the new kids. I also entered their new school with wide eyes, a lump in my throat, and an anxious heart. Our community, school, and neighbors showed us immense support and positively impacted our transition.
From our experience, here are ways you can support the new students and families around you during their time of transition.
- Teach your children to look out for the new kid. At the beginning of the school year, ask them who is new in their class and in their grade. Question how they include them daily and continue to encourage the new friendship.
- Ask your teacher for a list of new families and reach out to them. A simple e-mail or phone call welcoming them to your school can leave a lasting positive impact. Go a step further by inviting them to coffee, lunch, or to meet on the playground after school.
- Be a dot connector for new families. Ask new parents what their child enjoys and connect them to others with similar interests. Ask them what they enjoy and make similar connections for them. While this might feel a little match-makerish, remember how important your child’s best friend is to them (and yours to you). More than likely, this new family just moved away from their best friends. Play match-maker and see if you can create a special friendship.
- Include new families in your thoughts and prayers. Ask for their hearts to be calmed, for them to receive warm welcomes, and for inclusion. Having new families on your heart makes you more aware when they cross your path.
- Include always. Invite them to your church, your gym, your child’s birthday party, your supper club, and your next family bowling night. I cannot express how important the first birthday party is to their feeling of inclusion. Add the new kid to your invitation list. (Side note: Their mother will probably buy you a gift too!)
- Help them navigate. They will have tons of questions. Help them find new doctors, dentists, and salons. Ensure they know how to sign up for sports, where the neighborhood kids play, and the best family restaurants. Share your babysitting list and your favorite date night spots.
- Continue to reach out. They might be overwhelmed in the beginning or like a deer caught in headlights. They might even be apprehensive. Always put yourself in their shoes by giving grace and reaching out again. An excellent way to stay connected is to add them to your mom text chat or private class Facebook group. You know, the second grade mom chat where you really learn what’s happening at school and remind each other about the dreaded dress-up days.
- Be willing to expand your circle and your child’s circle. This is truly the game-changer. It is nice to welcome and answer questions, but you can have the greatest impact by widening your circle. Meeting newcomers is an opportunity to truly connect with others. Friend quotas are never too full for us or our children. You never know when your next best friend might be the new kid on the block.