Back to School Checklist:

Making Friends

It is back to school time already. Where did the summer go? Whether you are more than ready to have your kiddos back to school or would like another month of summer, it is time to prepare. Most of the time preparations look like buying school supplies, fall clothes, gym clothes, doctor’s visits, haircuts, sports and band activities, and establishing new routines. While all these are great things and definitely needed to be marked off your checklist, there are other areas I would like to address to ensure an amazing start to your child’s school year. I would like to spend the next four blogs talking about how your children can excel at; Making Friends, Preventing Bullying, Forming Study Habits, and Getting Organized.

Let’s start with how do we talk to our children about making friends. A friend of mine was sharing with me a conversation she was having with her granddaughter, who was entering kindergarten for the first time. She asked Olivia if she was excited about starting school and Olivia said she was excited to meet new friends. My friend asked her granddaughter if she knew what it meant to be a friend. Olivia promptly informed her grandma that she was kind. Part of making friends is being aware of what kind of friends our children are to others. It provides a great check into their spirit to see if they are presenting themselves with a character that is attractive to becoming an authentic friend. 

My friend affirmed and praised her granddaughter on being kind and also challenged her to what she might like in a friend. They came up with a list of attributes; likes to help me with things, good listener, willing to share things, willing to hold information in confidence, likes what I like, likes my differences, and makes me laugh.

It is important to let our children know that most of the other students are very nervous on their first days as well and it is okay to make the first move. The first move might look like them introducing themselves. Practice introducing yourselves at home to each other. This might look like:

“Hi, My name is Olivia. What’s yours?”

“My name is Sarah.”

Tell them it is important to use their name once they know it. It helps them to remember it and makes the other person feel special. Like this:

“Sarah, it is nice to meet you.”

“Sarah, that is a pretty name.” or

“Sarah, I like your ________.” Add shirt, shoes, hair, backpack, etc.

When passing off of a compliment, make sure you talk to your child about being authentic. Otherwise it may sound sarcastic or not real. We aren’t raising phonies.

Second, practice

shaking hands.

This may seem a little awkward, but more practice and they will catch on. Try using the story of the three bears to practice hand shakes. Extend your hand when you say, “It’s nice to meet you.” But make sure it isn’t a Papa Bear shake that is too hard (demonstrate without hurting) and not a Mama Bear shake that is too soft (demonstrate by barely holding their hand), but a School Bear that is just right (demonstrate firm).  Also explain that the length of handshakes is important too. Make sure it isn’t a Papa Bear shake that last a long time or a Mama Bear Shake that is too short, but a School Bear shake that is JUST RIGHT.

Third, teach them how to have a conversation with their new friends. What might they talk about? We get to know others by asking questions. Role play asking some of these questions.  “Do you have brothers or sisters? Are they older or younger? Where do you live? What hobbies do you have? What do you like to do after school? What are your favorite things? Where have you gone on vacation? What do you want to be when you grow up?” All of these questions don’t have to be asked in the same conversation, save some for later.

Fourth, how and when to extend an invitation. Teach your children that it is important to invite others to play. It may be as simple as demonstrating to them how to invite them to play. “Do you want to play ball with me? Would you like to play on the swing sets? Would you like to sit with me at lunch?” It also may be more involved like a playdate or inviting them home after school some day. Talk to your children about what is appropriate for your family and schedule.

Lastly, set aside a regular time to talk about friends with family. Ask your children if they met anyone new today. Ask them what they like about their new friends. Ask them what they did with their new friends. Ask them if they would like to have them over to play some time. In return, talk about your friends that you made in the neighborhood or at work. Always make sure to point out great qualities in your children so they are confident to step out and make friends with others.