Will she make friends at school?

Aug 18, 2022
making friends

Worrying about whether your child will make friends at school is every parents nightmare. 

The agonising thought that they might have no one to play with at breaktime or sit with at lunch. 

Whether your child is starting a new school (or nursery) or returning after a break can be a daunting and an emotional time for everyone. 

BUT do not fear there is so much we can do to help children

We can build their confidence and support them as they make the transition and make new friendships. 

Firstly, we need to manage our expectations and know our own children. 

Some children will be naturally more extroverted and drawn to socialising; whilst others will be more introverted and feel content in their own company, doing their own thing.

Before the age of 4 children it's unusual for children to make strong friendship bonds.  They tend to play in parallel.

Here are some positive things we can do to help our children develop friendships.

Playdates

  • If possible, find out the contact details of other children at your child's school and arrange a meet-up. This could be a visit to the playground or an invite to your house. It’s better to have smaller meetups, rather than a big group as that gives the children more of a chance to get to know each other.

Top Tip for playdates

  • Don’t assume that the children will naturally know how to play together, so if they are coming to your house, pick out some games they could do together – ball games, water play, cars, dolls. Lay out a few things for them to choose from. They won’t necessarily know how to get started on the games so you might need to be involved at the beginning. A great icebreaker is ‘What’s in the bag?’ – get a small cloth bag, put a variety of small objects in it and sit in a circle. Kids have to put their hand in, not peek in and guess what it is they’re feeling. This is excellent for turn-taking and could be done in the park too.

Preparation and practise 

  • Prepare your child ahead of time – talk over a number of things (these are great for meeting new children at school)
  • Tell them the name of the child who they are going to meet. Maybe some details about them if you know, like where they live or what they are interested in.
  • Practise friendly conversation openers ‘Hi I’m Sophie, what’s your name?’ Then teach them follow-on questions like ‘What’s your favourite thing to do or toy?’‘Do you have a brother or a sister?’
  • Practice letting the other child choose “You can choose what we play first” and being assertive in turn-taking “Ok, you had your turn, now it’s my turn” – you can do this in role-play with your child or as a demonstration with soft toys. 

Shyness…

  • If your child is shy around other children, firstly try not to refer to them as ‘shy’. Using a label can really box them. Just look at the positives and express that to your child “you take your time to get to know other children. That’s fine. You don’t feel comfortable jumping in to make friends. You are happy to play by yourself at first and then when you’re ready, you play more with others”.

‘Proper’ friendships

Children often don’t start to form ‘proper’ friendships until well into primary school, but you can encourage them to think about other people’s perspectives much sooner. Practising turn-taking by playing simple games, or alternating with you to do something fun like jump in a puddle really helps develop their ability to be considerate.

Encourage empathy early on

Continue to encourage children to think about other people’s perspectives and feelings early on. Practising taking turns with toys or on a slide or swing can really help their ability to make friends. Counting to ten and then letting someone else have a go and vice versa is a great way to encourage friendship.

Role-play and conversation openers

I remember during the summer before my daughter started school, we did some role-play on conversation openers. At the end of the first day, when I collected her, she said:

‘Mummy I was so good at making friends.  I said to that girl there “Hello, my name’s Scarlett, what’s your name? And then we went to play on the climbing frame”.

When your child is starting school, it can feel very nerve-wracking for everyone.  We don’t want them to pick up on our anxiety, so be careful to be very positive about the whole thing.

That doesn’t mean we brush their feeling under the carpet, on the contrary, we need to help them to express their feelings, but they don’t need to know if we’re anxious as it makes it much worse for them.

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