My Facebook feed is filled with happy back-to-school photos. Smiling kids looking their finest in clean sneakers and snazzy outfits. If only the photos came with audio. “Come on, kids. Just one quick picture.” “How are you not ready yet?!” “I don’t know where your shoes are. Where’d you leave them?” Now imagine what you’d be saying if you moved into your house last week. Think of how anxious you’d feel if your kid didn’t know anyone at school. Back to school time is crazy, but please take on this one extra assignment. Welcome the new family to your school.
Lead by Example
We always tell our kids to be nice, to include others, and to share. They get that message at home, at school, from books, and from TV. The most powerful teacher is, of course, you. I know because I saw it in a commercial. Don’t just tell your kids to be kind. Show your kindness. Show your kids how to include others by going out of your way to welcome a new family. A circle of friends can be expanded and this message isn’t just for kids.
Ways You Can Help the New Family at School
To help out the new family, introduce yourself. Go up to the new parent and say, “Hi! I’m Steven’s mom. Who do you belong to?” If you are certain that the family is new to the school, ask where they moved from and welcome them to the class. If you’ve never been new before, I can assure you that it’s just as hard to be the new mom on the block as it is to be the new kid at school. When you’re new, you don’t know who to approach. You don’t know who is in your kid’s class. You don’t know if someone is a parent, a nanny, or school staff. Every face is an unfamiliar one. So, you stand back and observe. Eventually you’ll jump in and introduce yourself as the new mom, but it’s so much nicer if someone else makes the first move.
Offer Your Contact Information
Whenever we moved, having somebody we could email with seemingly silly questions was a huge help. The new family might not know anyone in your area. You can answer questions about homework assignments or carpool line rules or give recommendations on doctors or dry cleaners.
Schedule a Playdate with Your Kids
After we moved, my daughter would cry at night because she missed her friends so much. My heart would break every night. Then one day Rachel invited me and my kids over to her house. I’ve never felt such joy and relief at seeing my children laughing and playing with other kids. At that moment, I knew that things would be okay.
Invite the New Mom or Dad Out
My friends and I had plans to eat lunch on a Friday. On Wednesday, we received a flyer about the new student who joined our class. I asked my friend who planned the outing if we could extend the invitation to the new mom. We did and we’ve been friends ever since. I’m a big believer in ‘the more, the merrier’. If you’ve got a group of girls going to the movies together, invite the new mom. If you’ve got a group of guys in a fantasy football league, include the new dad. You might not be ready to ask the new mom to join your book club yet, so invite her to something more low key like coffee or a park outing.
The only thing worse than having someone say, “Let’s get together for coffee” when they don’t mean it is having someone do that to you when you’re new. When we first moved to Tennessee, we scheduled playdates with several different people. All the playdates fell through. I decided to stop telling my kids when we planned to meet someone. I couldn’t handle how devastated they looked when they found out someone else had canceled on us. Instead, playdates would be happy surprises if they happened. Emotions run high after a move. Only offer the new family what you can deliver.
You Never Forget Your First Friend
Of course you’re doing all this to show your kids how to be kind. You know that it feels good to help others, so you get that additional pick me up. Maybe you were new once and you remember what it’s like. An added benefit is that you will always hold a special place in someone’s heart. I will always remember how kind Rachel was for inviting me into her home and I am forever grateful. It might be you or it might be your kid, but the new family will remember the people who were kind to them from the beginning.