Being the new kid in school is tough. Not only are they leaving their friends behind after a long-distance move, they have to start all over again, and children are often reluctant to reach out to a new kid. So, how can parents help their children make friends in their new town, without turning them into social pariahs?
Most child friendships, like most adult friendships, begin organically. Children, though, have the advantage and disadvantage or school. There are any number of potential friends in their school, but an equal number of potential enemies. The key is finding the friends.
What is Your Child Like?
You probably don’t have a lot of first-hand experience with how your child interacts at school, but previous teachers may have clued you in. Is your child shy and socially awkward, outgoing, the class clown? Did he or she leave behind a best friend and an extremely limited social circle, or a large social circle, but no close friends? Perhaps it’s something in the middle. If it’s the first, your child might need a bit more help finding a close friend.
Show them How to Make New Friends
If you think about it, you and your child are in the same spot. You left your friends behind too. Let your child see how you make friends. Strike up conversations at the grocery store, or with other parents. I made a very close friend by asking who did her hair. While kids aren’t like adults in every way, genuine compliments are often a great foot in the door.
Enroll them in Extracurriculars
It’s easier to make friends as part of a club or a teen sport than in the high-pressure classroom atmosphere. Ask your child what they are interested in, and enroll them in an extracurricular program. It’s a great way to find people they have things in common with.
Set up a Playdate
This one is last because playdates can be awkward. Your child might want you to set up a playdate with the most popular kid in school, with the goal of propelling her or him into instant high social status. It’s far better to set up the playdate with another child who wants a friend. You might want to start with a child who attends a neighboring school.
When trying to help your children make friends, it’s important to respect their independence. Never try to force a friendship or intervene when you really don’t need to.