How to help children make friends at school

Written on 25th July, 2022

Whether it’s starting a new school or returning after a holiday, it can be daunting and an emotional time for everyone.

BUT do not fear, there’s so much we can do to help prepare children for starting school, to build their confidence and support them as they make the transition and make new friendships at primary school.

We’ve teamed up with Camilla, parenting expert, mum of four and previous early years’ teacher to get some top tips.

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. Both are fine, but if we know our child, then we know what to expect.

There are so many positive things we can do to help our children.

 

Playdates

  • If possible, find out the contact details of other children starting at the same 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 for a playdate and for generally meeting new children – talk over a number of things:

  • 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.

Get dressed in the school uniform

Encourage them to get dressed by themselves and get excited and proud about wearing the school uniform. M&S along with other high street stores do great school uniforms.  You can now buy Non-Iron and Stain Resistant shirts, perfect for the day-to-day wear and tear of the school classroom and handy velcro top button, making getting dressed easier. Also practice putting on shoes and sports kit.

Shyness…

  • If your child is shy around other children, firstly try not to refer to them as ‘shy’; using a label predefines 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 and developing empathy

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 and the qualities needed in friendship much sooner.

Practising turn-taking by playing simple games, or alternating with you to do something fun like jump in a puddle, it really helps develop their ability to wait their turn.

You can empathise with them that it’s hard to wait your turn which will help them develop their own ability to be more considerate.

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.

Grab your Free Downloadable guide now and find out:

  • How to get your child emotionally ready for the change.
  • How to get back into good routines.
  • How to help them make friends.
  • 10 practical ways to get prepared.

Our next blog by Camilla will be about how to develop strong self-esteem and independence in our children. Consequently, it will be far less likely for them to be bullied or teased. So watch out for the next blog to tell you how to raise your child’s self-esteem.


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