Making Friends at a New School
By Patience Domowski, LCSW
Starting at a new school can be so hard for kids! Whether it’s the start of a normal school transition like Kindergarten, or beginning of middle or high school, or starting in the middle somewhere because you moved to a new district, it’s really difficult. It’s normal to be nervous and not happy about it.
You’re the ‘new kid’ like it or not, and everyone already has friends and a group, so you automatically feel left out. While some kids can be welcoming and friendly it can still be difficult or take a while to find your niche. Here are some helpful tips:
Be friendly, even if you’re naturally shy, and introduce yourself to people. Smile and look happy, even if you don’t really feel that way. People are automatically attracted to happy and friendly looking people.
Try to sit with others and interact with them. Acknowledge you are new and ask for insight and help (even if you don’t really need it). You can start with ‘Hey, I’m new here, can you tell me about this teacher?’, or ‘What do you think of the cafeteria food here?’, or ‘How do I find the library?’. Often people appreciate being asked for help and will engage with you.
Ask for someone to show you around the school. The principal may have already set this up. Maybe the person who shows you around may become a friend, if not they can at least introduce you to other people. If they don’t automatically do so you can ask them to introduce you.
Join any clubs, activities, programs, sports you may be interested in. If you aren’t sure what you’d like to participate in, try a few out and see what you like. Finding others with similar interests is a great way to make new friends.
If you find someone you think would make a great friend try inviting them to come see your new house, or hang out sometime. If they say they are busy ask when is a good time. If they keep putting you off, move on to someone else.
If you make one friend, try to meet their already existing friends and connect with them too.
If your parents allow have a party at your house and invite everyone. Whomever comes, try to talk to them and secure future plans.
In some elementary schools there is a ‘buddy bench’ to sit on at recess if you need a friend. If you sit there other kids will come around and ask you to play.
If the school is really cliquey recognize it’s not your fault, and keep trying. Remember it can take a while sometimes, but you’ll get there.
Be okay with just one or two friends. Your friend group will slowly grow if you want it to, but it doesn't have to be the same amount as at your previous school.
If it’s not going well, ask the teacher or school counselor for help.
Helpful Book for Elementary and Middle school age children for making and keeping friends:
Lily Makes Friends, by Patience Domowski. Available on Amazon.
Helpful tips for anxiety when starting at a new school.