“You have to figure out how to feel at home, how to fit in, and how to be yourself. You may feel out of place, or uncertain sometimes. There’s a chance you may also be curious — and even a little excited — about what’s ahead. You’re not the only person to deal with these mixed emotions and wonder, “Whose life am I living?” In fact, there’s a large cast of characters — kids just like you — who’ve been there, too. “
~ Debbie Glasser & Emily Schenck in New Kid, New Scene: A Guide to Moving and Switching Schools
New Kid on the Block: Books to help your Children Survive and Thrive at a New School
( A version of this article was first published in Kingston Neighbours magazines, August 2020.)
Whether moving across the world, the country, the province, or just across the city, uprooting your family is difficult. I understand. My husband and I have moved with our kids several times! But we’ve learned a few things along the way. One is that despite how positive we are about the move, our kids will still have intense feelings, especially about switching schools. No one likes being the new kid on the block.
As a book-lover, I’ve discovered many books that can help kids cope with this change. One favourite was Augustine by Canadian author/illustrator Melanie Watt of Scaredy Squirrel fame. A little penguin moves from the south to the north pole, but has “cold feet” about starting at a strange, new school. Besides its puns, we liked Augustine because it gave our kids the chance to talk about their own “cold feet”. Similarly, they greatly empathized with Chester Raccoon who didn’t want to move in Audrey Penn’s A Kiss Goodbye.
I also recommend Jacqueline Woodson’s The Day You Begin and The First Day: A Book of Courage by Manitoban Metis writer Katherena Vermette. Multicultural and moving, both focus on the courage to reach out to classmates when you are an outsider.
Then there are the funny books. First Day Jitters by Julie Danneberg and Adam Rex’s School’s First Day of School humorously help kids realize nervousness is normal on the first day. Mo Willems’ new release The Pigeon HAS to go to School! is also a hilarious must-read.
And let’s not forget older kids. Tim Green’s New Kid is about a teen who moves constantly with his dad, but finds a sense of belonging through baseball. And Hazel’s Theory of Evolution by Lisa Jenn Bigelow and Jeremy Craft’s graphic novel, also titled New Kid, are two new releases about teens switching schools. Craft’s book is especially timely, tackling the subjects of being the new kid and a Black student at a white, upper-class middle school.
But the book I wish we’d known about when we moved again last year is New Kid, New Scene: A Guide to Moving and Switching Schools by Dr. Debbie Glasser and her daughter, Emily Schenck. Each chapter has anecdotes from kids who have moved and plenty of advice, including how to keep old friendships and how to survive that dreaded first day.
Fortunately, many of these titles can be borrowed from public libraries. If your library remains closed because of COVID-19, curbside pickup is often available.
Keep in mind it may take months for kids to adjust. If your child seems to be struggling more and not less over time though, seek additional help. Teachers may be able to offer some guidance. With proper support, soon your children will be welcoming other news kids on the block!