What if it’s the first day of school and you are the new kid in the class?
What if you return to school after a summer off, only to find that your best friend has made a whole new set of friends and you aren’t in the circle any more?
What if you actually prefer solitary pursuits… reading a book, working on the computer and you don’t really have many friends?
Friendship can be a tough call for both children and adults. How can educators and parents lend a hand?
Teach Children Self-Worth
One of the key concepts that all children need to learn and internalize is a feeling of worth and value that is inherent in their authentic self rather than based on another’s opinion. It’s easier to make a friend when you feel like you have something to offer. Recognizing their self worth also helps a child feel more secure if their offer of friendship is rejected.
Help children recognize that they are enough just as they are by learning to value their own unique personality style, gifts and talents. Introverts don’t need to try harder to be outgoing. Computer geeks don’t need to become jocks and not everyone is going to make straight A’s in school. Teach children to set reasonable goals and challenge themselves in areas where they can excel, then celebrate their success.
Teach Friendship Skills
Not everyone is a natural at making and keeping friends. While some children may seem to attract friends like magnets, others stand on the sidelines and wonder how to begin. As a school counselor for twenty years, I often had conversations with children who set their sights on being best friends with someone but didn’t know how to begin the interaction. Our conversations would go something like this:
Child: I don’t have any friends. No one likes me.
Me: What have you tried to make friends?
Child: I asked Susie to play with me at recess and she said she already had someone to play with.
Me: Did you ask someone else?
Child: No. Everyone else already has friends to play with.
While the situation may seem hopeless in the child’s eyes, there are obviously many directions to go in with this scenario, not the least of which is teaching persistence, focusing on the needs of others and looking for other children who may also be lonely and in need of a friend. Usually given a few concrete ideas for how to go about interacting with others, children can experience success in making a new friend.
Teach Children to be Curious
Often helping children to re-frame the friendship experience can be helpful. Instead of seeing themselves as the one person in the class who is friendless (probably not a true perception anyway), what if they saw their situation as an opportunity to get to know others? What if they were curious about their classmates and what they like to do, what their favorite subject is at school (recess or lunch?) and their favorite book to read. What if they notice who might need some help and offer a helping hand? Expressing curiosity about others is a great way to begin a conversation.
Wyatt the Wonder Dog Learns about Friendship
It’s not easy being the new kid at school, especially if you are a cat and everyone else is a dog. How do you make friends? Can you even be friends with someone who is totally different from you? Wyatt the Wonder Dog helps solve Ami’s friendship problem with empathy and compassion. A great story for teaching children the critical life skill of making friends.