Dear American Girl,

It's a new school year, and my stomach is in knots. You see, last year, I was the class bully. I was having problems at home, and I took it out on people. Over the summer, I realized that I was wrong, and I've come back to school as someone who wants to be kind and friendly. The only problem is, my classmates seem to be nervous around me, and I'm having trouble making friends. How can I show them that I've changed?
-Ex-bully

Here's your advice:

Starting a friendship can be as simple as asking, "How was your summer?" Talking about pleasant topics instead of saying unkind things is an easy way to show people that you've changed.
-Kailie, age 10, Kentucky

When you go to school, wear a smile on your face. It's not as easy to be nervous around someone when she's smiling.
-Grace, age 13, Delaware

Try complimenting people. Say, "I love your new backpack!" or "That's a cute bracelet. Did you make it?" If your classmates start thinking of you as a nice person, they'll see that you're a different girl.
-An American Girl fan, age 11, Utah

Start by saying hi and making conversation. Be confident in the fact that you are trying, even though people might not see it right away.
-Alexis, age 12, Minnesota

Do small things that can earn your classmates' trust. Hold open the door, offer to carry a person's heavy books, or if someone spills her lunch, help her clean up. I hope this helps!
-Sarah, age 11, Oregon

Think back to last year—can you pick out a few people in particular whose feelings you may have really hurt? Work up the courage to apologize to those people. Say, "I'm sorry if I hurt you last year. I was going through a difficult time, but it wasn't fair for me to take it out on you. I hope you can forgive me."
-Sophia, age 10, New York

Just keep being friendly. Sometimes it takes a while to change opinions. Keep up the good work!
-Jenna, age 12, Wisconsin

Continue to be kind. Once people start to warm up to you, invite a few girls to your house to watch a movie, make a craft, or have a sleepover. When they see the true you, especially at your house, they'll know that you've changed for the better.
-Kathryn, age 13, Indiana

If things get too tough for you, don't be afraid to talk to your teacher. She might be able to help you.
-Ally, age 9, California

Bring a few extra sweet treats to share at lunch. It's a fun way to show kindness to your classmates.
-Kira, age 13, Vermont

Don't get discouraged. Change doesn't happen overnight, so start by being friendly with one or two girls in your class who seem nice. Once you've developed a couple of friendships, it might be easier to become pals with others in your class.
-Lou, age 12, New York

Instead of waiting for people to come to you, go to them first. Start a conversation, offer to help, or give a compliment.
-Elizabeth, age 10, Michigan

Rather than try to change what others think of you, just focus on changing yourself. You'll feel a lot better if you're nice and kind, whether people notice or not.
-Sarah, age 12, Michigan

Show off the new person you've become, no matter what others may think. Congratulate someone when he does well on a test. Cheer for kids in gym class. Organize a fun game at recess. Be yourself!
-Nina, age 9, Michigan

If you try being nice but you still feel stuck, it might be time to talk to your school's guidance counselor. She might be able to offer you some advice.
-Alexandra, age 10, Texas

I understand how you feel. Last year, I took my anger out on a group of girls. If you were unkind to some girls, apologize to them. If they are still upset, find a new group to hang out with. It's OK to make new friends.
-Ally, age 12, Ohio

Don't try too hard to show your new personality, but don't shy away from every situation either. If you see that someone is having a difficult time with something, help her out. Show that you have a caring heart.
-Morgan, age 13, Indiana

I used to be a bully, too. Don't try to convince people you've changed with words—show them with actions, because actions speak louder than words. Look for chances every day to show kindness to your classmates. It's a new year and a chance for a fresh start. That's what I did, and now I have lots of friends.
-Kila, age 11, Texas

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