Starting a new class or joining a new team or group can be overwhelming, especially if you do not already know someone who is on the team or in the class. This is true of adults and is especially true of children.
Seven Tips to Make a New Student More Comfortable
Helping a new student feel comfortable can make or break that person's experience with your class or team. Below are some strategies that I like to pull out of my magic bag for new students that are extra hesitant.
1. Know the new student's name before they come into your class or practice.
Greet them by name as soon as they come in. This includes telling them your name as well. I also like to tell them how excited I am to meet them, and let them know that we are going to have so much fun.
2. Make an immediate connection.
The sooner you start building a relationship the better. Ask them questions about themselves. These questions do not have to have anything to do with your sport or activity. I like to ask questions like, "What are you having for dinner tonight?", "What is your favorite color?", "Do you have any pets at home?" Anything you can do to start finding some common ground, and get them talking about something that makes them happy.
3. Use your psychic powers!
Try to anticipate any concerns or fears they might have before they tell you. Children can sometimes be embarrassed about their fears, so if you can take care of them ahead of time it can make a huge difference in their comfort level.
4. Believe that every child deserves to feel successful.
Also, understanding that success can mean different things for different children. In the gymnastics world one child can feel successful after mastering a more advanced skill, while another child feels success simply from walking across a beam unassisted.
5. Partner the new student with your kindest and most enthusiastic student.
Giving them a buddy on their first day can help create a meaningful connection. Some children are more comfortable interacting with kids their own age.
6. Modify the lesson plan.
Let the new student know that if they are not comfortable trying something that they can take a step down and try something easier.
7. Thank them after the class or practice.
Let them know again how excited you are to have met them. Tell them that you hope you get to see them again. Ask them if they have any questions for you. Did they have fun? What was their favorite activity? It is always best to end on a good note. That is what they will remember most.
Starting a new activity can be scary. It is up to the teachers, coaches, and group leaders to make everyone feel welcome, comfortable, and excited to come back.