Whether school started today or within the next month, my hope is that it starts off with joy and on the right foot. That is why I fondly call this Be Nice to the New Kid Month. There are many studies on the positive effects of kindness. It’s a teachable skill and one that does as much for the giver as the receiver. Schools that make social emotional learning a priority create environments where kids feel safe and thrive.
But it’s not just up to schools. When parents make it a priority, everyone wins. The beginning days of school offer a tangible way to teach kindness. It may be even more important this year if masks are still part of the picture. Mask can make these first days feel extra awkward.
A simple statement as they go off to school — Be nice to the new kid today— is a simple, powerful way to help set them on a path of leadership. It doesn’t matter how old they are. The message is ageless.
Kind words do not cost much. Yet they accomplish much. —Blaise Pascal
If you’ve ever had to walk into a school knowing no one, I don’t have to explain the importance of a peer introducing themselves or including you at their lunch table. For most kids, the fear and anticipation of starting a new school is like jumping out of an airplane. You know other people have survived but you’re not sure you will. That one kind person can feel like soft welcoming ground.
Thank you, Carmelina!
Although I’m sure she doesn’t remember me, I’ll never forget the girl who was nice to the new kid. I was entering 8th grade when my family moved from a small town in Indiana to San Juan, Puerto Rico. I didn’t know the language. I was leaving the world’s best friends right before the best year of elementary. And my new brown and yellow uniform could not have been uglier (the phys ed uniform is too embarrassing even to describe) . A trifecta of bad.
To say that I was scared is an understatement. I wanted to be invisible. Just when I was dreaming of an escape route, a girl named Carmelina broke away from her gaggle of friends and switched from Spanish to English to come say hello. She took me under her wing. Although the other kids didn’t necessarily warm up to me, it didn’t stop Carmelina from being my friend.
I don’t know where she is today but I think of her every August. Each year as my own children went off to school, I would remind them to be like Carmelina and make sure they befriended the new kids.
If you’ve never read the book or seen the movie, Wonder now is a good time. It beautifully illustrates the power of making kids feel seen and valued. There is an inherent kindness to most children but they become their best selves when they are guided. In other words, kids need mentors. We are their Go-To Adults.
So when you drop your kids off at school and you remind them to “be nice to the new kid,” know you’re raising a leader and this former “new kid” is cheering you on.