Being new is hard. My children are the new kids once again and they feel the discomfort acutely. I send them off to school each day with dragging feet, aching for the days when they skipped their way to class. I know this stage is temporary and I think they know it too, but remembering that tomorrow will be better is hard when you’re struggling with today.
Culture Shock hits everyone in different ways and it’s always complicated. My kids love being in a home instead of a duplex again. They’re excited to reunite with their friends and they adore riding bikes to the school parking lot with Dad. Yet, they go to a neighborhood school where everyone and everything is new. Instead of the three recesses of Iowa, they have one in Illinois. They thought they wanted different, but now they’re not so sure. I’m once again dubbing this stage, “The Unbearable Awkwardness of Newness.”
This move is only temporary while we search for post law school work, so it’s kind of a trial run for this stage. The biggest obstacle seems to be making new friends, but feeling shy and out of place. I totally get where the kids are coming from and want to support them through positive communication.
Here are 7 ways I talk with my kids about Being the New Kid: The Unbearable Awkwardness of Newness
- Nerves are normal. Owning your feelings of fear and insecurity are an important step. Kids don’t have to pretend they are happy or comfortable when they are not. It’s okay to feel what you feel.
- Find your courage reserves. Kids are resilient and strong. We often have courage reserves just waiting for times like these to get us through. Access these at school and then let home be a refuge at the end of the day where you can let your reserves fill up again. As time passes, you won’t need to use your reserves anymore.
- You’ve made friends before and you’ll make them again. We all wish some perfect friend would pursue us and magically erase all of our fears and insecurities. Friendships usually blossom through a smile, sharing a joke, working together in class, and consistently saying, “hi.” It’s easy to forget that other kids feel shy and nervous, too, even if they aren’t new.
- Your life is full of firsts. Remember the first day of Kindergarten, summer camp, horseback riding lessons, and art class? Remember the first time you rode a bike on your own or successfully tied your shoes? You made it past these firsts and learned new skills, found future hobbies, and made great friends.
- We aren’t keeping track. A successful day at school isn’t measured by how many friends you’ve made. Give it time. Give yourself grace.
- Measure in small successes. When we ask, “How was school?”, we really want to know. If you feel down about it, we’ll work to talk it through and seek out the positives or small successes. Could you find your way around easier today? Was some part of hot lunch good? Did someone smile at you? Did you work up the courage to talk to someone new? Can you undo your bike lock on your own?
- I am rooting for you. I can’t go with you to your classroom or to the playground, but I am rooting for you all day long. I think of you throughout the day and cheer you on. You can do this and you are not alone. I am here for you when you need to talk or not talk. I love you.