New school year: Advice for the new kids on the block

School begins today for many around Atlanta and I’m sure there are a lot of kids starting new schools. Our school in New Jersey doesn’t start for another month. (My kids are getting the longest summer of their lives.) But when they do start they will all be the new kid in class.

Rose has found her litmus test for friends: If they like the BBC’s version of “Sherlock,” Avril Lavigne, Panic at the Disco, “Pitch Perfect,” etc …. then she knows they will get along.

I sent all three kids to one week of camp just to meet some people and to get a feeling for the schools. I think it did help give them some level of comfort. Also my former boss lives in the town and her kids are helping to introduce them around as well.

I am trying different things to meet people in New Jersey than I did in Phoenix. I am trying to be more outgoing and open — which I think is equally applicable to starting a new school.

So here are my tips for anyone new to a community or school:

1. Say hi to everyone and tell them you are new.  — This really seems to be working out well. At grocery stores, church, picking the kids up from camp, train into the city — I say hi and then immediately tell them we are new to the area. People always welcome us to the town (even the pizza delivery guy) and ask questions or tell us things about the town.

2. Drop a Ya’ll — I keep telling my kids dropping a ya’ll is a conversation starter. People invariably ask where you’re from and then hey, you’re talking. My line is that I lived in Arizona but I don’t claim it. I am from Georgia.

3. Business cards — My former boss took me to a business/social event the first week we were here so I quickly printed up business cards so I wouldn’t look like a complete boob. But I can’t believe how much they are coming in handy just to hand out as I meet people. We went to the Metropolitan Museum in New York City two Sundays ago and we took the train in. I looked at my cards and said I won’t need them going to the museum and then two ladies on the train gave me their cards. I felt so stupid that I left my cards behind. I gave one out at church Sunday to a woman that I met and I gave one to the florist down the street who said her friend had a great pediatrician but she couldn’t remember the name but she would call me with it. I am seriously thinking about printing up business cards for each kid. It’s great way for them to give other kids their email addresses and the home phone number.

4. Follow up right away — I really hit it off with one of the ladies that I met on the train. She was from the South and owned her own media company promoting chefs. She was very interesting and we had kids about the same ages. So that night I sent her quick email with some links I thought she would find useful and invited  them over to play. She wrote back immediately and was very receptive. So I am looking forward to hanging out with them.

4. Ask questions: People love to be experts and love to tell you about a community, school, playground, lunch room — it applies on all levels.

5. Take notes in your phone, iPod, iPad. People only introduce themselves once and you feel like a dummy asking people their names again and again so this time around when I meet someone I make notes in my phone. I put the person’s name and something so I remember where or how I met them. I note their kids’ names and then also any info they gave me.

So what are your best tips for kids starting at new schools? How do you develop friendships in new schools and new towns?