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The Family Project: Helping senior fit in at new school

Q: In August, we moved into a new school district. Our son is beginning his senior year. He always struggled at his old school socially, but now at this new school, he is lost. He tried joining clubs at the beginning of the year but hasn’t been able to make any friends and now is feeling rejected. What do I do?

This is a tough situation for the boy, The Family Project panel agreed.

“He needs to be connected. Connection is a basic need. He should go to the school counselor for help on ways to get connected,” said panelist Joanne Raftas.

“School is littered with events where he will feel like an outsider. He could get a part-time job and meet new people that way. Sometimes, schools have groups to help newcomers,” said panelist Chad Stefanyak.

“Moving is a shock to the system and he needs to acknowledge that,” agreed panelist Mike Daniels.

Daniels recommend that the boy stay connected with friends from his old school to help alleviate his loneliness.

“With technology, it’s easy to stay in touch with old friends,” Stefanyak said.

The panelists agreed it is hard to make connections when groups are already set.

“He will have a hard time getting into the stream of things unless he is part of something. He needs to stick with things and get himself out there. He can’t take it personally. He’s not being excluded, he’s just not being included,” Raftas said.

“At this stage, these kids’ lives are set and he is not a part of their lives,” Daniels added.

“It is difficult to break into established groups, but he can connect with kids with similar interests through jobs, sports, music and similar interests,” Stefanyak said.

Raftas suggested getting involved in activities run by students such as the homecoming committee, student government or yearbook.

“Try to reframe around the excitement of going away to college. Suggest he is practicing meeting people like he will when he goes to college,” Stefanyak says.

“Maybe if he doesn’t fit in easily, his expectations are too high. It is going to take a lot of effort,” Raftas said.

He also can take advantage of this time and spend more time with his family, suggested Stefanyak.

This week’s panel: Pam Wallace, program coordinator, Project Child, a program of Valley Youth House; Chad Stefanyak, school counselor; Erin Stalsitz, Lehigh Children & Youth; Denise Continenza, extension educator; Joanne T. Raftas, registered play therapist and counselor, and Mike Daniels, LCSW, Psychotherapist.

Have a question? Email: projectchild@projectchildlv.org

The Family Project is a collaboration of the Lehigh Valley Press Focus section and Valley Youth House’s Project Child.

The Times News, Inc., and affiliates (Lehigh Valley Press) do not endorse or recommend any medical products, processes, or services or provide medical advice. The views of the columnist and column do not necessarily state or reflect those of the Lehigh Valley Press. The article content is not intended as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician, or other qualified health-care provider, with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.