When a child joins a new school there are a couple of challenges he or she might face, the toughest being acceptance by classmates and winning friends. And during the pre-teen and teen years this issue gets even more compounded as children tend to form groups based on certain parameters and it gets even tougher for a new student to gain acceptance into one of these closed peer circles.
With the start of the new academic year children moving into new schools or children arriving from other countries have to go through the slow and often challenging process of not only getting accustomed to a new school but also trying to ‘fit in’ and be accepted by their classmates and new friends.
And parents often witness the frustration and breakdown of their child’s self-confidence, sometimes leading to loss of grades and resistance to going to school.
So today’s question by a worried parent who asks:
How do I help my child who is finding it difficult to get accepted and make new friends in his new school?
1) As children grow into their pre-teen and teen years they tend to grow their identity separate from their parents and family. The single largest influencing factor in the creation of this new identity is their peer group. As a Youth Coach, in my sessions with young children I have found out the labels and names of these peer groups are: ‘The Cool Group’ or ‘The Nerdy Group’ or “The Sporty Group’ and children then form those typical identities to become parts of those groups. So it might take your child some time to discover himself, which group he might best fit into, so give it some time.
2) During this unsettling period, support and nurture your child as his self-confidence might get a little shaky. Help him to focus on his strengths so as to maintain his self-confidence.
3) Discuss with your child the characteristics he is looking for in his friends. What kind of friends does he want to make? Sporty? Academics? Chatty?
What are the characteristics he needs to develop, because to attract good friends, he needs to be a good friend.
4) For you to be able to expand your child’s group of friends you could become more active in the parental support group in school. In this way not only would you make more friends, you could also invite other parents children from different classes to your home. You could organize a bowling evening for some children from your child’s class so he has an opportunity to spend time with them outside school.
5) Encourage your child to foster friendships outside the school through the sports club, music classes or playground.
6) Role-play. Sit with your child and discuss what he is passionate about, whether it is about a sports personality, music, art, some facts, some fun thing, a new game, something unique that he can share with his classmates and new friends; so that they begin to notice him and want him to be part of their group.
Action: Sit with your child and let him role-play 2-3 things he can talk to his classmates about so as to pique their interest, and help him to break the ice and start new friendships.