You’ve Got a Friend in Me!
The new school year is just around the corner and that means the opportunity for a fresh start. This could mean new routines, new teachers, and new friends! The thought of making a new friend, however, can be intimidating and scary. Your child might be asking questions like, “Where do I find a friend” or “What if they don’t like me?” We’ve got a few tips for finding new friends and initiating conversations with others.
The first step is to find the right person. The right person is someone who is around the same age and with whom your child shares a common interest. They should look for others that do things that they like to do (e.g., playing baseball, reading comic books, trading Pokémon cards, or dancing). A common interest gives your child something to talk about and an activity they could do together. Good places to find potential friends include school clubs, after school activities, the playground, or the school bus. The beginning of the school year is also a wonderful time to encourage your child to try some new activities and potentially discover a new hobby that will introduce them to different people!
Once they have identified someone who shares a common interest with them, they can initiate a conversation. Conversations go back and forth, so they will need to learn to ask questions and answer questions. One way to start a conversation is by making a comment on their shared interest (e.g., “What did you think about the Blue Jays game last night?”). Open ended questions offer more opportunities for conversation than yes and no questions, so try teaching your child to frame their questions this way. Your child should learn to listen carefully for any questions the friend may ask them back and be sure to answer them. If they ignore their questions, they may feel as though the conversation is one sided.
Leave the conversation on a good note. This makes it more likely that the other person will want to chat again. Help your child prepare a “cover story” ahead of time for why they need to leave so they don't stress in the moment. Cover stories could include things like needing to go finish homework, get to an activity, or a parent picking them up. Before leaving, it's a good idea to teach your child to suggest to their friend that they hang out or talk again soon and to pay attention to the other person’s response. If they seem positive or excited about this, it will tell your child if they should initiate a conversation with them again later.
There’s always the chance that a person doesn’t want to chat or be friends. It can be challenging to recognize when a conversation isn’t going well. Some ways that you can help your child tell it’s time to end a conversation include, the other person ignoring your comments and questions, using very short answers, not smiling at all, or asking you to leave them alone. Not everyone will be a friend and that’s ok. We don’t want to force a friendship! They can end a conversation that isn’t going well in the same way they would if they were ending it on a good note. The only difference is they would not want to propose another time to chat or hang out.
Spend some time role-playing these skills before school starts to help your child to feel confident on the first day. Include siblings, cousins, or current friends. These people can also help brainstorm some ideas for how to respond in different scenarios.
For more information and advice on developing friendships and social skills, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.