It’s been a ________ (choose your adjective) 18 months. Now it’s back-to-school time. The kids may be wearing masks. They may be a foot taller. (Seriously, how did that happen?!) Life changed, and the kids changed with it. If you moved in the past 18 months as many Americans did, you face additional challenges. Moving and starting at a new school is not easy, but please know that the kids will be all right. Here are some tips to help your child – and you – through the transition.
Exude positivity for yourself and your kids
You probably hate me right now. “How am I supposed to exude positivity after 2020/21?” you ask. The way I see it, when life gets harder, you smile bigger. It’s not for the sake of others although, in this case, it will help your kids. Your bigger smile will help you through the transition. A positive mindset, a feeling that you have some control over where life takes you, will make you feel better. It’s the only life we get, so let’s make the best of it. Even – especially – during a pandemic.
Put your guilt aside . . . the kids will be all right
Moving with kids isn’t easy. You might question yourself, “Should we have moved and uprooted the family?” Remember the reasons why you did move. Were you on top of each other with remote learning and remote work and no space for anything? Did you move closer to extended family? Did you move to keep your family safe and healthy? Whatever your reason, you did it to improve your family’s situation. Stop feeling guilty. Your kids will be all right, and so will you.
Teach your kids about the SNEAK attack to make new friends
I love acronyms, so I created SNEAK to teach kids (and adults) the body language tips you need to make new friends. Smile, Neatness, Eye Contact, Arms Open, and Kindness. Teach your child the importance of a smile to attract others. For neatness, it’s time to put the remote learning PJs away and to wear regular clothes to school. Showers and deodorant help, too. Eye contact is so important. It shows others you are listening and that you care about what they are saying. Keep your arms by your side instead of crossing them. This friendly body language acts like a magnet for other kids to approach your child. And, as always, be kind.
Practice approachable body language and ice breakers at home
In my book, The Art of Happy Moving, you will find an entire chapter devoted to helping your child make new friends, complete with role play scenarios. It does not matter whether your child is six or sixteen. When you practice approachable body language and ice breakers at home, you give your child the confidence she needs to enter a new school. The more you practice, the easier it gets. If your child will be continuing with remote learning this year, here are some tips to help him make friends in this unique situation.
Believe your kids will be all right
Our kids are not as fragile as we feel they are. They are resilient. This generation of kids has endured the unimaginable. They have spent a significant percentage of their childhood living through a pandemic – the fear, the uncertainty, the divisiveness, the loneliness, and the lack of independence to just be kids. None of us would have wanted our kids to experience these hardships, but they’ve done it. They’ve shown us how strong they can be. Moving and starting a new school is hard, but they’ve already climbed an even bigger mountain. Your child can do this. Have faith that your child can do this. Believe in her. She needs that from you.
You say “the kids will be all right”, but what if my child is not?
One positive from the abundant family time at home is we are more in tune with our family’s needs. In the past, maybe we wouldn’t have known about our child’s struggle with reading or the social drama in his life. Before the pandemic, the kids’ busy schedules and our own hectic lives masked underlying challenges. Now, we understand each other and ourselves better, and no one knows your child like you do. If your child needs professional help, please contact someone. Your family’s mental health is the top priority.
Ask for help from others
You’re new in town. It may be harder to ask for help since you don’t know anyone yet. However, this is what community is all about. Contact your child’s school and ask if you can be paired with another family. They can help you learn the ropes and answer any questions you may have about school pick-ups. Go on the neighborhood Facebook page, say you’re new to the area, and say you would love to get kids together to play soccer on the weekend. Reach out to your child’s dance teacher, and ask if there’s someone in the class who may be willing to carpool with you. It takes a village, but you need to take the first step and ask for help when you need it. We all need as much help as we can get.