Fitting In Not Out

When a child doesn't fit in a new neighborhood and school.

By Nando Pelusi Ph.D., published on May 30, 2008 - last reviewed on June 9, 2016

My son has not been able to fit in after we moved. I met with teachers and we tried many things, now I'm home-schooling him. He just wants to go back to his old school. Is he just going through a teen phase or could it be a cognitive delay of some sort that needs attention?

It is possible that your son has encountered a common social scenario: Cliques. As the new guy, he has not felt welcomed by his peers, but this is not so unusual. He may have incorporated the real or imagined rejection into a sense of self. Beginning around the age of 7 or 8 and lasting well into the teens and beyond, peers are a child's touchstone for self-identity. Most kids would be daunted by the thought of trying to fit into a new school.

Your son may have already given up trying to socialize. Nonetheless, if he is currently getting home-schooled, it is doubly important to encourage him to find a social group with which to bond. A local sports team or church or secular youth group may provide a social backdrop for him, and will help him cultivate the social skills that are as important as learning an academic curriculum.

If he's feeling pessimistic and socially rejected as a result of his peer-group encounters in your new neighborhood, he may require some professional attention, lest this view becomes entrenched. Depression often arises when someone assumes that things won't work out and gives up trying.

It is important to reinforce two messages for your son as he continues his home-schooling: First, he should accept that he does not immediately have to be included by any clique, and that eventually he probably will connect to like-minded peers in the neighborhood. He can still find new friends and groups with which to ally himself. Secondly, he should be encouraged to practice interpersonal skills, so that he can start to feel more confident when interacting with new people.