Remember that scene in Mean Girls where school resembled a zoo to new girl Cady on her first day? For some, that might reflect the nightmare of switching schools or starting high school, but it doesn’t have to be like this.
Psychotherapist and family counsellor Tahlia Mandie says that while they’re normal, feelings of anxiety and nervousness will eventually subside, but until then, here are a few tips on emerging from your new habitat, er, school, unscathed.
Don’t fake it: It may sound obvious, but Tahlia advises that the easiest way to overcome first-day nerves is by being you. That’s easier than trying to be someone else and then having to keep up the charade every day, right?
Breathe: Feeling a little daunted as you approach the school gates? Tahlia suggests practising deep breathing. “It helps to bring the heart rate down and bring the nerves down a little [which] can help in being able to approach other kids and new situations,” she says.
Find a connection: Do you know anyone else in your year or know someone who knows someone? Thanks to social networking (and the six degrees of separation), you’re bound to be connected to someone, so look into it and maybe you’ll find someone to help you navigate your new territory.
Get touring: Tahlia advises touring the school before your first day to minimise anxiety and build knowledge around general bearings to ensure there’s little chaos on top of the initial awkwardness that comes with a new start.
See the positives: “Some of the scariest situations can sometimes be the most amazing experiences,” Tahlia says, so be open to the possibilities that come with starting afresh: you can forge a new role in school clubs, put awful memories behind you, and cultivate your identity as the awesome chick you’ve always been on the inside.
Approach people: This can sometimes be hard, especially when you feel a bit like an outsider. But introducing yourself to others is a positive invitation for them to embrace you, especially if you’re giving off strong and confident vibes that they’ll want in on. This is something that worked for Hayley, who was a nervous wreck when she left the comfortable surroundings of her private Christian school for a public high school in Year 11. “Public school was a scary new environment that I was not used to,” she says. “But going up to people, saying hello and asking if I could join them for lunch worked a whole lot more than sitting alone in the playground feeling awkward.” She’s since made friends that will last a lifetime!
Stay in touch with old mates: Use Facebook, email, Skype and weekends (joy!) to keep up with your old friends. They’ll hear you out, ensure you don’t feel alone and ease your transition to your new situation.
Ask for advice: Tahlia advises asking friends or family who have gone through a similar experience for their advice. School counsellors or co-ordinators might also help with an initial debrief so you don’t feel burdened with what you must learn about the rules and regulations of your new school.
And if all else fails, think about how the new kid in movies is always the centre of intrigue and fascination and you’ll be cool in no time. Work it, girl!