Starting High School in a New Town

Question of the Day from Parents of a High School Freshman in Cleveland, Ohio:

Dear Bulldog,

My husband and I recently relocated from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania to Cleveland, Ohio this past summer due to work-related opportunities there. Coming along for the move with us is our only child who will be starting high school this year in a completely foreign town at a brand new school where she does not know anyone. We want the start of her high school career to be one of excitement, but she has expressed nervousness in beginning this next chapter of her life and fearing she will not be able to make friends or fit in. What can we do to reassure her that high school will be a great experience and to ease her worries and fears of the worst?

Thank you in advance.
From a Worry Wart Mama.

Dear “Worry Wart Mama,”

Making such a big move to a new town can be a stressful situation for anyone just in and of itself. Coupled with the fears of starting high school at a brand new school where every face is unfamiliar, students feel pressured to want to fit in with others, and worrying about making friends can be added sources of stress and anxiety for a child. Here are some tips/advice to help you help your daughter and to ease your own worries over hers.

Talk about thoughts and feelings. To better understand what your daughter is going through and how she is coping with your family’s relocation and the coming school year make an added effort to check in with her just to see how she is doing. Often the importance of a simple “How was your day?” or “What are you looking forward to?” is greatly undervalued, but these types of questions in addition to asking your daughter questions specific to starting high school, fitting in, making friends, etc. can allow you to better understand what stresses her out and to come up with positive ways to help ease her (and your own) anxiety. It also helps to continue this type of discourse on a regular basis just as a daily check in to see how she is doing.

Take time to research clubs/organizations/sports/other co-curricular activities offered at her new school. Co-curricular activities offer students the opportunity to connect with similar others by sharing in their collective passions and interests. This offers students an excellent chance at making friends and fitting in. The best advice for your daughter is to find something she takes great interest in and to get involved as soon as possible!

Freshman orientation. Many high schools have an orientation period for all incoming freshman students in order to familiarize themselves with their new school and to make new friends. Reassure your daughter that while she might be new to her school many other students are entering high school with very similar fears and she will be thoroughly surprised to find out how much other students also want to make friends and fit in. Freshman orientation is a great chance to meet some new faces before the school year officially starts.

She is not alone. Again, it is important to let your daughter know that her anxiety over starting high school and wanting to fit in and make friends is something that is not unique to just her. Many students have the exact same worries. However, it’s important to stress that going into the situation with an open mind and a sense of optimism for the future will ultimately set your daughter up for success in the long run. It also doesn’t hurt to say a few positive affirmations such as “I’m excited to start high school,” “I will make friends,” “I will have a great school year,” etc. in order to help your daughter establish greater confidence going into the next chapter of her life.

Hope this helps! Wishing your daughter the best!

Bulldog Team