A new school year brings excitement. There are new classes, new teachers, and new clothes. At the same time, a new school year can bring anxiety over unknowns like new challenges and new people. As parents, we want to see our children transition into these new situations as painlessly as possible. The following tips will help.
Encourage your child to step out of the comfort zone
Great things never happen inside our comfort zones. Kids will need a little nudge to embrace that. Making new friends may feel scary to your child. Take the time to point out all the benefits of making new friends like learning new things and having more playmates on the playground.
Discuss how it's kind to make friends with a new student, and provide your child with ideas for making that happen like inviting a new student to sit at your child's table in the lunchroom. Playing together on the playground, sharing toys, or reading together are other easy options for forging new friendships.
Practice meeting someone new
Work with your child to learn the social skills necessary to meet someone new. Practice using direct eye contact, speaking audibly and clearly, and asking questions to create a conversation. The best way to do that is for you to model the behavior and then allow your child the opportunity to practice these new skills.
Practice at home until your child is comfortable, and then encourage him to practice these skills in real-life situations outside the home. Playgrounds, parks, or church gatherings provide opportunities to practice meeting new people and having conversations. Be encouraging, help your child adjust skills as necessary, and praise your child's efforts.
Teach your child how to resolve conflict
Conflict is inevitable, even in strong friendships. Your child needs to know how to resolve it quickly. Teach your child to seek to understand when conflict arises. Many conflicts occur simply because we make assumptions when we should instead ask questions to understand the situation before responding.
Teach your child to take responsibility for his part in a conflict and to show grace to the other person. Most conflicts can be resolved fairly easily if resolution is the goal, but these skills must be taught and practiced.
Be your child's role model
The best way to help your child make new friends at school is to model friend-making skills yourself. Go out of your way to talk to new people and make new friends. Let your child see you shake hands and start a conversation with someone new. Invite friends over to your home for dinner or meet up for a playdate with your children. When your child sees you do these things, making new friends will seem like a natural thing to do.