New Kid In Town

By Kristen Castillo

May 20, 2013 4 min read

Starting school is never easy, but it's particularly tough for kids starting a new school where they don't know anyone.

Suzanna Keith helped her three kids adjust to a new school by enrolling them in summer camp and sports programs where they'd meet kids from their new school before classes started.

Keith, of the websites The Online Mom and Tech and Travel Mom, says when she and her family, including kids, a 14-year-old boy, a 10-year-old boy and seven-year-old girl moved from Rye, N.Y. to their new home in Woodlands, Texas, the kids "were nervous because they were leaving their home where they were born and didn't know a soul."

The local activities helped Keith's kids meet other kids and transition to their new neighborhood and their new school.

*Don't Force It

"One of the biggest fears kids have when starting a new school is not being accepted," says Julia Cook, author of "Making Friends is an Art," who explains kids struggle with "friendship insecurity."

Kids miss their old friends and worry about the unknown. While they may want to rush the process and make friends right away, kids need to avoid forcing friendships.

Cook says children should look to befriend kids who demonstrate friendship qualities including not being a complainer, being trustworthy, being respectful, having a strong sense of self worth, having a good sense of humor and putting others' needs ahead of their own.

"Just be yourself and demonstrate as many friendship qualities as you can," she says. "Allow other kids to reach out to you."

It's hard to do, but kids and parents need to be patient and give friendships time to develop.

"Teaching friendship social skills will never be as easy as it sounds, and we are all at different levels of learning," says Cook.


Even though kids may feel isolated in their new surroundings, many local resources may help them adjust to their new home and make friends.

Keith suggests reaching out to the local schools for help. Some schools have orientation programs where new kids can meet other new kids and get partnered with students who already attend the school.

"Often PTAs have welcome-to-our-school events over the summer," she says. "Then reach out to the local recreation department to find out about their camps, classes and sports leagues."

Kids can also sign up for activities like youth theater or volunteer with local community projects such as neighborhood cleanups.

"If you are a churchgoing family, the new church is another great resource," says Keith, who also recommends asking family and friends if they know people they can introduce you to in your new city.

Parents of young children may have success setting up play dates for preschoolers and elementary school aged kids. Often schools will help connect new-to-the-area parents with other parents who are willing to host kid get-togethers.

*Quality, Not Quantity

Many kids want to be surrounded by a large group of people but they don't necessarily need a large group of pals.

"To a child, even having just one good friend can make a huge difference. It is not the quantity of friends that matters; it's the quality," says Cook, who encourages kids to follow three rules: Break the ice with kids they haven't met before, act positive and manage conflict constructively.

Just because a child is looking for new friends in a new school doesn't mean she should forget her friends from her old school or her previous neighborhood.

"It is also important for kids to avoid comparing their past friendships to the new ones they are trying to establish," says Cook. "Everyone is different, and since no two friends are alike, no two friendships can be alike."

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