I recently re-read the novel Wonder by R.J. Palacio. As an avid reader, I can say I have not been affected by a novel like this one in a long time. The publisher’s description reads as follows, “August (Auggie) Pullman was born with a facial deformity that prevented him from going to a mainstream school—until now. He's about to start 5th grade at Beecher Prep, and if you've ever been the new kid then you know how hard that can be. The thing is Auggie's just an ordinary kid, with an extraordinary face. But can he convince his new classmates that he's just like them, despite appearances?”
Having trouble adjusting to a new school and new classmates is something most military children can relate to, mostly because they have to be the new kids in school more often. I was recently talking to a mother of two teenagers whose last duty station was not a large military town and her kids could never find their niche in a school where the current students had all known each other their whole lives. In the two years they spent living there, her children never felt like they fit in. How do we help our children transition to a new school?
We raise them to be strong, independent and kind individuals. You can simply be nice, or you can choose to be kind. I hope to instill in my daughter a strong desire to be compassionate and to ACT and pursue kindness. I am afraid; as a child, I was nice but never took too much time to be kind. I wish I could go back and sit with the person eating lunch by themselves in a full cafeteria, or be someone who defends another because it's the right and kind choice and not the popular one. Our children have an amazing opportunity to touch SO many lives. Since they could potentially change schools every couple of years, the amount of friends and acquaintances is quite high (not to mention the other military children they meet). Think about their potential to spread this kindness to others!
Wonder has lessons for everyone, parent, non-parent, and child (my 10 year old niece read this book). It is a great family discussion piece, offering a great opportunity to talk to your children about being good friends, their fears and concerns about being the new kid at school, or a way for them to share with you if they are a victim of bullying, or simply struggling to fit in.
We cannot always protect our children from the stress of a new school in a new town, but we can remind them what it means to be a kind and generous friend to others; a sure way for them to find a niche quickly!
Please share in the comments how you have helped your children transition to a new school. Some of the best tips come from fellow families!
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