Starchy uniform, shiny shoes and a set of sharpened new pencils mark the first day of term after a long playful Summer. But if your child has just started at a new school or is moving mid-term it can be very daunting. Rolling through the gates of a new school is full of trepidation for both parent and child but it doesn’t have to be so scary. Miss Manners has some hot tips about how to navigate school life and fit into a new school plus a few tips to keep new mum’s in line too.
How to fit into a new school & find your tribe
Visit the new school together so that you both get a feel for the facilities, meet the teachers and get to know the new school run. If you’ve had a chance to have a taster day or get together with new classmates before term starts all the better. As a parent you may be nervous about the move but your child might pick up on this and carry your anxiety so be positive and encouraging – don’t keep asking ‘are you nervous?’!
New School, New You
Starting at a new school can be a chance for your child to start again (if they need to). They can amplify all their best bits or work harder on the things they find a bit tricky. You only get one chance for a first impression so be the person you want to be from day one and the transition will be a whole lot easier.
The easiest way to meet people and truly immerse yourself in school life is through clubs and social activities. Suss out the more popular clubs from the school office and sign up for the ones that you think your child will be most comfortable and confident with. They’ll be more likely to make friends with people who share similar interests as them.
As for you, try not to put other parents backs up by spouting lyrical about your child’s gymnastics awards or that they had the lead in their old school show three years in a row (really? we’re not that bothered) You might be a Tiger Mum but keep it to yourself for now. Allow your child to flourish at their own pace without too much intervention. Don’t worry we’ll find out if they were Junior Mastermind Champion soon enough.
How to make friends
Smile, smile and smile some more. If your child has a happy approachable face, chances are they will attract the right kind of friends. If it’s a close knit school where the kids have been bosom buddies since pre-school then you might worry that it will be hard to break in. But surprisingly everyone wants to be friends with the new kid so more often than not, your child will likely be popular by virtue of the fact that they are new. Saying ‘hi’ or telling a joke might be all it takes to spark a conversation.
The same goes for you as a parent. You’ll find our own tribe in time, there’s no need to rush it. Don’t be tempted to spill your life story on the first day of school or take out your long list of needy new mum questions just as everyone is scurrying to their cars to get home or to work.
Put on your big girl (or boy) pants
It’s not a bad thing if your child has to ‘fake it till they make it’ to help fit into a new school. Get those big boy pants on, take a deep breath, be brave and go for it. They can ask to join a group of kids at the lunch table, get involved in a conversation or pick up a hockey stick like they’re going to score the first goal. It won’t be long until your child finds a common ground or interest and gets swooped into the fold. Allow them to fly in and out of friendship nests until they find their home.
You on the other hand should play the cool card – at least for the first week or two. Don’t expect after school invites or nights out with the other mum’s immediately. Don’t take it personally or a slight to your personality if you’re not linking arms to Costa Coffee on Day 1. Everyone has busy lives and may not think to include you. Anyhow its’ infinitely cooler to have a little mystique about you for the first while and let people get to know you naturally.
So it’s going to be tough after the ‘school-moon’ phase has lost it’s original appeal: your child might miss their old friends, hate the Science teacher or find they’re not doing as well in their schoolwork as they had expected. But don’t let them fall at the first hurdle: teach them to pick themselves up, dust themselves down and move on. Once they are happy and comfortable in their new surroundings, have made a few friends and have made a connection with their teacher(s), everything will start to come together.
One of the biggest barriers to moving schools can be leaving old friends. But you will be surprised by how quickly some of the less valuable friendships fall away (which definitely isn’t a bad thing). Figure out which ones are worth the investment and then make sure to do everything in your power to keep those alive. If you still live close by then fit in local clubs like scouts/ girl guides, swimming or drama into your weekly schedule so they get to see their old friends. Your child will be all the richer for having a second social circle. And you will too.
And Finally, Ask for help
It takes time to fit into a new school so allow a couple of terms for this to happen. However if you are struggling it’s okay to give the form teacher the heads up or find a friendly parent to chat it through with. By the time Christmas comes around, the new school shoes will be scuffed around the edges, the pencil nibs worn down and you’ll most likely be part of the school furniture too.
Love Miss Manners x