It was halfway through Christmas vacation when my 6 year old daughter broke down crying just before bedtime. She had transferred schools only a month before, in the middle of the semester.
At her previous school she was well liked, and enjoyed school. Her new school was year round, and only one person had befriended her. According to her all the other kids disliked her and were rude.
It helps to know these important facts about moving schools and paving the way for our kids to transition as easily as possible.
It’s no secret that moving children from school to school is hard on them. Its also no secret that children may misread the signs and don’t have the experience to overcome social barriers.
Children may embellish the stories or maybe they just don’t understand what is really happening.
You know who does have the life experience to understand these things and the power to correct them?
You, the parent.
I knew my daughter was likable, as well as how important it was to fix this situation because it may have a significant impact on her future.
I also knew I had the power to help fix it and this is what I did.
Talk to the teacher.
The only people who know what is really going on are your child and the other kids.
Even the teacher won’t know, but the teacher will have a better idea than you do.
One day after school I went in to speak with the teacher and told her about the situation over Christmas.
The teacher did express regret. She told me that she hadn’t seen any children be rude to her, but she couldn’t be sure what happened at breaks.
The information I did get suggested that my daughter may have been a little bossy when she first arrived at the new school. The teacher said she wasn’t bossy anymore, but it could be a problem.
Pinpoint the obvious.
The obvious problem when a child transfers schools is that nobody knows them.
As a human being we don’t like or are cold to things we don’t know or understand.
When we get older most of us break out of this, but many people don’t.
Kids can’t do this without our help.
In my daughters case, the only thing they knew was that she was bossy.
Most schools ask for volunteers in the elementary years.
I made it a point to volunteer one hour a week in her class. This gave me the ability to monitor my daughter’s behavior as well as get a feel for the other children.
When kids are in the first grade parents can still be considered “cool”. My presence at the school made the children feel more familiar with my daughter than they really were.
Eventually, I went from Mr. Johnson to Marina’s dad.
You break the ice.
Most of the time when kids are mean or rude at this age, it is because they don’t understand the other children or they want to keep up images.
Volunteering in class often gives you the chance to talk with and meet other parents. It also helps you make friends with the kids.
Invite one of the children over for a play date. If you can do it through the parents it works best.
When your child and their child are together without other children around, they get along and they get to know each other.
After several play dates with several kids, schedule something with all of them together.
If your child has a summer non-school birthday, a half birthday works great.
Outdoor Daddy has some great ideas for some different play dates.
Change their language.
If they complain they don’t have a lot of friends, don’t reinforce it.
I had my daughter quote this every day. “Some kids will like me and some kids won’t and that’s okay.”
When I dropped her off in the morning I would encourage her to say hi to all of her classmates.
After a few weeks she went from saying, Lori is my only friend to, Lori and Camden are my only friends. A few weeks later is was Lori, Camden and Addison are my only friends.
Keep in touch with old friends.
If it is possible try to schedule play dates with old friends. I drive to the next state over once a month, because her oldest friend moved. It gives her a lot of confidence to know that she is liked. Knowing that people like you make it easier to accept that some people don’t.
For most people this may seem like a lot of work. Sometimes it may be a lot of work. As parents we have to remember that when we move, its not a decision our children have a voice in. We move to make our circumstances better, but we often make our child’s worse.
Not every student or parent will be amicable and be willing to schedule play dates. However, if your child is new and you can earn them four new friends, you have put them in a much better position to succeed.