How to help my son gain more confidence

Q My family has not long moved to the area and my eleven year old son is about to start at a new school. He is not very confident and I worry that this new start will not be easy for him. He has one or two friends that he knows at the new school but I would like to see him develop a broader circle and gain more confidence. What can you suggest?

A Changing schools can be a difficult time for many children so my first suggestion would be to give your son a few weeks to settle in before becoming too worried. Engage with him during these first few weeks and get to know what it is like for him and support him where you can. Here are some tips to make life a little easier for your son:

  • involve your son in the planning and preparation of starting at the new school. You mentioned he already knows two other kids at the school so perhaps your son could contact them to let them know he will be going to their school;
  • get your son to do a little bit of research on the school website so he can familiarise himself with the facilities and programs. For example, would he be interested in the school band or sporting team? He could also get an idea of the canteen menu in case he had some pocket money he could spend during breaks;
  • try to visit the school in advance. Have your son become familiar with the route to school as well as the school grounds; and his new school teacher if possible. Find out if it is possible for your son to be placed in the same class as one of his friends, so that he has a familiar face around as soon as he arrives. If you believe your son and his two friends get along well, you (or your son) could ask them to show him around to get him used to the new school;
  • encourage your son to find out what his friend’s interests are and if they play a particular sport, would he be interested in becoming involved? The more activities he becomes involved in (within reason of course), the more opportunities there are to make new friends;
  • knowing that it can take a while to adjust to a new school, think about activities or friends he could spend time with after school. It is important that your son still has something to look forward to after school in these first few weeks. If he comes home and mentions the name of a new friend, invite the friend over when there is an opportunity;
  • prepare your son for times he feels anxious or lonely while adjusting to the new school. For example, if he is feeling physically anxious, suggest that he take a few deep breaths through his nose and encourage him to tell himself something empowering such as “I’ll be ok”. Also remind him of other times where he may have felt worried about new experiences but ended up enjoying them or feeling better about them;
  • does your son enjoy playing handball? If so, this is a great way to join in with other kids, especially if your son brings his own handball to school. He can either stand near a group of kids who are already playing and slowly work up the confidence to ask if he can join in. Or, he could seek out another kid who is on their own and start a game of handball.

These tips are just a few to help your son settle in for the first few weeks. Talk to your son’s teacher to get a feel for how he is going. Hopefully his confidence will begin to grow as the weeks pass. Good luck.


Follow on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Tanya Russell Image
Tanya Russell

Tanya Russell is CatholicCare's Assistant Director and a registered psychologist.

Other Aurora Issues