It doesn’t matter if your kid is the first one to introduce himself to everyone on the playground or is perpetually shy in social settings; every kid has a moment when making new friends feels intimidating.
Will they like me?
Will I fit in?
Do I belong here?
My greatest fear as I send my kids out into the world is that their invitation for friendship won’t be reciprocated. I worry that my son will introduce himself and all the kids will run away, or my daughter will walk into a room alone and no one invites her to come sit with them. I just want everyone to see my kids the way that I see them—worthy of love with the potential to be a really awesome friend. Have you ever worried about this too?
Supporting our kids as they make new friends starts in the home. At home, we can safely create opportunities for them to practice their friend-making skills before they go test it out on their own. When asking a friend about her kid’s friendships she simply said: “when they are young, they simply don’t have a choice on who their friends are because I make the plans.” And she’s right. We have the ability to help our kid’s say hello, problem solve, navigate new social settings with Mom or Dad nearby until they gain the confidence to do it on their own.
And when they fail or a friend is in a mood that day (i.e. declare they aren’t going to be friends anymore because Sally wouldn’t agree to wear purple on Thursday), we can be right there to snatch them in our arms and remind them they are still liked.
Here are five, simple ways you can support your kids as they make friends:
Remind your child of their value.
Tell them often how much you love them and then how much more God must love them. Remind them of the unique qualities that make them a great friend. Reinforce their own self-worth and value as they go through the ups and downs of playground drama, because inevitably feelings will be hurt as the status of “best friend” gets traded as quickly as a baseball card. Everyone needs a cheerleader!
Normalize their fears.
Help your kid see outside of their own situation and normalize their fear. When back-to-school fears crop up, you can try saying: “Every single person starting school tomorrow is nervous about making new friends. I am sure the little girl you sit next to is looking for a new friend just like you. Be the brave one and say “hi” first. I’m sure she will be so glad you did.”
Use at home play dates to work on social skills.
If your child is super shy or has a bad temper; practice, practice, practice in a safe setting with friends who are patient and can help navigate the situation.
When your kid asks for a play date with a new friend, say yes.
Sometimes I am quick to say “no” because I am uncomfortable about meeting a new family. It’s time to stretch my friend-making muscles too and say yes. This gives my son a chance to continue getting to know that classmate better and support a new friendship.
Not everyone will become a new friend, but you respect them anyway.
As they meet new peers and find new friends, kids will eventually get stuck to someone they may not like as much. Perhaps personalities clash, or they like different things. This is a chance for us to challenge our kids to respect and treat others with kindness even if they are different. God loves us despite all our differences, so we can care for people who are not our first pick for a friend—and who knows—that person may even grow into a good friend.
As our kids navigate their first friendships, tell them about your friend-making stories. We are all lifelong learners in the art of making friends. It is just as hard at four as it is at forty. Show them how you initiate, introduce yourself and get to know new people.
Scripture to read with your brave kids:
Questions to talk through together:
Why is it challenging to make new friends?
How does it make you feel to be fearfully and wonderfully made by God?
What are some ways you can introduce yourself to others? When you say hello first, how do you think that would make someone else feel?
Is there anything I can do to help you feel more confident as you make new friends?
Fun-Size Friendships Coloring Sheets
Subscribers of my Newsletter can download four Fun-Size Friendships coloring pages for their kiddos. These coloring pages are a fun collaboration between myself and Mary Clarke Photo & Design. No judgement if you print two copies of each so that you can do one…