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Helping Your Child Adjust to Changes in Friendships
Tips from Teachers
Insights and Ideas from Smart Love teachers and tutors on how to help your children have a successful school year!
As the new school year gets underway, children will face many changes and unknowns, including new teachers, routines, and peer groups. They may feel excited about all of these changes but they may also feel anxious or nervous. When it comes to new friends and peer groups, kids may have strong feelings while others may not. Some children may be outgoing and make many friends more quickly and others may take more time or prefer fewer friends. Parents can welcome all of their child's feelings and let them know that it is okay for them to have different feelings about meeting new people, about how many friends they have and how long that process of getting to know their peers and making special connections can take.
When trying to fit in and be accepted by peers, some children may feel that if they were different in some way, they would have an easier time making friends. For example, children may say that they don't want people to know that they like certain shows or hobbies, that they feel their hair or clothes aren't good enough, or that they aren't as smart as other students. Talking to your child about their strengths and letting them know that they don't need to change who they are in order to fit in or find friends is an important part of building your child's self esteem and strengthening your relationship with them. When children know that their parents love and accept them for exactly who they are and don't expect them to be anyone else, children are better able to be themselves around others and form connections with peers based on their genuine interests and personalities.
From one school year to the next friend groups can change as the class roster changes. It is helpful for children to understand that it's normal and okay for them to have a new friend group or for their friend group to change. If your child is feeling sad about these changes, be sure to listen to all of their feelings and try not to tell them how to feel. Although their friends may change, it's important for them to know that you are always available and they can rely on your relationship to help them feel better. For example, parents can find activities to do together that they know their child likes, like playing games, watching a movie, or baking cookies. When your child starts to make new friends, support those positive friendships by scheduling play dates or other activities for them to get together.
While children may be getting after-school support from their parents to help them process their feelings, children also need to feel supported during the school day as well. Parents can help children identify adults at school that may be able to help them process their feelings around social situations in real time, such as their teacher, teaching assistant, guidance counselor, or other school professionals they feel comfortable with. Parents can let children know that they will always want to hear anything that the child wants to share, even if the child has another person who can help them with their feelings at school. For example, parents can say, "It's so great that you can let me know what has been going on between you and your friend. It sounds like that can feel really hard to deal with at school. I wonder if there's a person at school who can help you with some of these feelings when I'm not there during the day. What about Ms. Smith?"
With every school year there is ineveitable change - including with your child's friend group. It's important for children to feel that these shifts in friends aren't a negative reflection of their self-worth. It is with your enduring kindness, understanding, patience, and loving relationship that your child will be able to weather the ups and downs of the school year.
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