The first few days of this new school year have been great fun and have been filled with excitement, certainly for the teachers and staff, and—despite some natural nervous anticipation—for the great majority of children as well! For our many newcomers, though, SSIS is still the “big unknown,” and student worries over friendships, facilities (getting lost on the way to the restroom) and routines can dampen their experience if not sensitively addressed both at school and at home. Allow me to offer a few tips for handling these concerns, if your child is new to SSIS or even if they are just showing signs of anxiety over a new school year.
Acknowledge your child’s feelings
It is helpful to listen carefully to children when they are discussing their feelings about friends. It may be more helpful to accept their feelings as part of a legitimate concern than to tell your child not to be so concerned or to think about something else. You may choose to reply by restating what you hear your child saying. For example, when a child expresses concern about going out to recess with no one to play with, the parent might first say, “I can tell you are a little worried about recess tomorrow.”
Make a plan together
A first step is to ask your child who they would like to have as a friend. Then you might arrange to invite the prospective friend for after-school play or may choose to enrol your child in extracurricular activities with the prospective friend.
Accept the challenge
Parents can become good role models in solving problems. They can help children see that the problem of making friends in a new classroom, although sometimes difficult, can be tackled. Talking about possible solutions with your child may be an ongoing useful strategy. Helping your child understand that if one course of action does not work, another can be tried, offers a child reassurance that the problem will eventually be resolved.
You might think of a time when you were in a similar situation and tell your child how you felt. It might be helpful to let your child know that you experienced the same fears about making friends on a new job. You can share with your child what you did to overcome your fear and make new friends.
Give it time
It might be helpful to explain to your child that friendships take time to form. Time invested by parents in helping children make friends can be time well spent.
Feelings of anxiety are normal when entering an unfamiliar environment, such as beginning a new school, particularly when friendships have not yet been formed. Parents can support children in working through these feelings and in making new friends in their new school.
Ronald Wilson, M.Ed
EC/ES Guidance Counselor