for release September 14, 2001
by Melodie Davis
NOTE TO EDITORS:
This is the 1st part of the 3-part series: "New in the Neighborhood."
New Kid in School
"The new girl in school." All my life I waited for my fantasy to come true. I watched other girls and boys move into our elementary and junior high school and there was always a fascination with the "new kid." It seemed like they were instantly popular, sought out, and everyone wanted the new kid for their circle of friends because it would make their circle popular too. I remember reading fiction books for young girls that played on my fantasies, of how popular I would be if only I were the "new girl."
So I was enthusiastic and totally supportive of the idea of our family moving 950 miles from Indiana to Florida shortly before my senior year of high school. It was the first move our family ever made, and I was 17.
It is only now with daughters ages 15, 18 and 20, that I realize I was a little unusual in embracing a move at that age. My own kids would have thrown a fit if we had moved to the other side of the county, let alone to the southern half of the country.
I'll never forget the night before my first day of school that year. I had never cried before the first day of school when I was young. But suddenly, the reality sank in and I was scared. I shut the door to my room and cried.
And with good reason. The reality was far from the fantasy I imagined.
Yes, people were curious, but after they gave me the once over, they went
back to their own circle of friends. Never being all that outgoing, the
first weeks and really that whole year were rough. I made some good friends-especially
with another new girl who had moved in from California. Her cousin went
to our high school, and so she and I were kind of absorbed into her cousin's
circle of friends. It was probably my own fault, but one year wasn't long enough for me to build very deep relationships. And then we all went our separate ways the next summer and fall.
My extremes in feeling (great anticipation to fearful dread) are probably pretty typical, but different for each child. The child who has fought moving and hates his parents for making him move, may end up liking his new situation. Approximately 10.8 million children move each year. Psychologists say that usually the younger the child, the easier transition it is. However, if your younger child is moving as the result of divorce, a lot of different feelings and anxieties can get jumbled into a mass of insecurities. Tom Olkowski is the author of a book, Moving With Children. He says high schoolers can be particularly unpredictable: they may be happy one day, and the next day come home in tears.
One couple had to move to an Asian country for several years for the father's job. Their normally happy, preadolescent son turned rebellious. Was it his age, or the move? For two years they struggled with a very difficult relationship with their son, always trying to keep communication open. Finally they learned that he had not been able to make any friends at school; he was subjected to almost constant ridicule, but didn't want to burden his parents who had worries of their own.
Many schools have an orientation session for new students. Make sure you attend it. Some schools assign newcomers with a Peer Guide or Buddy who helps to show the student around, eats lunch with them, and introduces them to other students for a day or two until they can strike out on their own. Ultimately, getting used to a new school is up to the child and the child's family: you can't depend on other people to make friends for you. No matter how tough a new situation is, it is guaranteed to be a learning experience for other tough, new situations. I had a difficult senior year but it was invaluable in breaking me out of comfortable routines and helping me to understand other people.
Many families try to move several weeks ahead of the start of school in order to get settled, but not too far ahead because the structure and school setting helps kids meet new friends. Tips from other kids who've been through it:
* Check out the new school before the first day. Find out where everything is, such as classes and bathrooms, so you don't have to feel silly asking.
* Break the ice. Be the first to introduce yourself.
* Start conversations, ask the kids about themselves and what they like. Try to remember their names.
* Smile. Don't feel like you have to make friends the first day. Just get to know people at first.
* Get involved. Join some clubs, activities, athletics, band or choir.
* Don't forget about your old friends. Stay in touch. (From "A Girl's World" web site, www.agirlsworld.com).
For a free booklet, "Journeying Through Loneliness," write to: Melodie Davis, Another Way c/o Name\Address of YOUR newspaper; or e-mail: Melodie@mennomedia.org.
You can also visit Another Way on the Web at www.thirdway.com.
Melodie Davis is the author of seven books and has written her column since 1987. She taught feature writing and has won awards from a number of organizations including the National Federation of Press Women, Virginia Press Women and the American Advertising Association. She and her husband have three growing daughters.
NOTES TO EDITORS: text = 790 words; end material = 105 words
We would appreciate it if you would include the
"Globe Syndicate" bug at the end of the column.
©2001 by Globe Syndicate, all rights reserved.
Return to Another Way