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5 Tips for Helping Kids Make New Friends

New or changing social settings don’t have to be daunting when kids have some strategies available to aid them in making new friends.

By Lani Aquino

No matter what the age, making new friends can be challenging. Children can be faced with angst over forming friendships when a new school year starts, a move occurs, a new team is joined, etc. Not every person is a natural social butterfly, but parents and teachers can offer kids strategies and tips for positive social interactions which can lead to budding friendships.

Designing a toolkit that kids can take with them to school or any other social situations can do wonders for relieving the what ifs… that may arise during these new or transitioning moments. Kids need to have an understanding that an instant BFF is a rarity, and some time, effort, and observation are key components to fostering lasting friendships. These 5 tips will help them be well on the way to diving into some positive social interactions.

  1. Build Perception- Sometimes a likely friend is right in front of them, but kids may need a little help in recognizing these potential comrades. It can be rare to find younger kids sporting a look that doesn’t have a bit of personalization to it. Whether it’s a superhero t-shirt, professional team logo, animated character, etc., there are often some big tells for possible common interests based on fashion alone. Even if the “advertised” item isn’t a favorite, it can still offer a way to strike up a conversation. Parents can encourage kids to notice these items and also point them out when families are together in social settings.
  2. Participate in Cooperative Activities- Cooperative activities are the ones that can be low-pressure on the competition scale but offer opportunities to interact with others. Youth groups, after school clubs, special interest classes/workshops, etc. are all great starting points. This is another way to get kids mingling with others that have like interests. This is also an excellent opportunity to help kids find their niche in extracurricular activities.
  3. Model- Having real-world examples can go a long way toward developing the mindset and background knowledge kids need for building and navigating their social circles. When kids see parents positively interacting and making efforts to include others and participate in the give and take associated with friendship, they are learning and absorbing how to take on these roles themselves. They also have the ability to learn from mistakes and gain an understanding that like most everything else in life, friendships won’t always be picture perfect. While positive real-world examples are best, doing some viewing of movies or shows that focus on friendships and taking the time to discuss and process the available lessons can also be impactful.
  4. Role Play- Building the background knowledge that lets kids feel some security in new situations can be done by role playing different scenarios and possibilities that could arise. Through role play, parents can focus on introductions, sharing, dealing with conflicts, compromise, and more. Spending time talking with kids and helping them understand the nuances and cues for holding up their end of a conversation is also key. This can be done through role play or even more mindful and reflective interactions that happen on a daily basis at home.
  5. Be a Present Parent- This does not translate to helicopter parenting. This does translate to offering to chaperone a school/club event, driving a carpool, or being an engaged audience member. Yes, kids need to spread their wings, but having a familiar face as they doing so can be hugely beneficial, especially for shy ones. This can also offer parents the ability to observe from the sidelines and offer some insight and tips on different ways to approach and interact with others.

Building friendships can be challenging at any age, but the lasting benefits of having a positive social circle are irreplaceable. When parents and teachers are able to help kids develop their social skills and build their confidence in entering new social situations, these are qualities that can last a lifetime. These 5 tips for making new friends offer a great starting point for navigating the social sphere.

If you enjoyed the thoughts and ideas shared here, check out the trainings and tools (for teachers and for families) that we offer.

If you enjoyed the thoughts and ideas shared here, check out the trainings and tools (for teachers and for families) that we offer.

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