New School Year, New Friends: Hints to Share with Your Children
Your children may be blessed with natural “magnetism” that attracts friends almost uncannily. On the other hand, they may be shy and introverted—in which case, especially if they’re about to enter a new grade or a new school, learning the following points will be a big help to them.
Caution: Unless the kids feel you like them, they’ll have a hard time believing that casual acquaintances could. If you have any of the following habits—
- Picking out imperfections in a child’s accomplishments
- Nagging children to live out your dreams for them, without considering their natural talents and preferences
- Harping on the alleged importance of being “popular” (however you define that word)
- Immediately jumping to “rescue” your children from any hint of struggle or unfairness
–better apologize to your kids right now, and commit to changing, if you want their friend-making skills to improve.
On to the “how to make friends, for kids” section:
Be a Friend to Yourself First
If you keep telling yourself you’re unlikable—even if you never say it out loud—you’ll soon have everyone else believing it. Don’t compare yourself to “popular” kids; they probably have problems you don’t know about. Know what you do well and enjoy doing, and spend lots of time doing it—and don’t let anyone tell you that you should prefer what “everyone else” enjoys.
Keep Your Eyes and Mouth Turned Up
If you go around staring at the ground and scowling, you’re telling others “Don’t talk to me”—and they won’t. Learn to walk with confidence and to smile at people. Don’t mumble, either; say “Hi, great to see you” like you mean it.
Learn about Others
Start with their names—just being the kid who never mispronounces a name will give your popularity an amazing boost. Then, get in the habit of asking others about their concerns and interests—and listen to their answers instead of always jumping in with “That reminds me of ...”
Choose Your Friends Well
Don’t be so desperate for friends that you’re immediately all over anyone who’s friendly to you. For one thing, you could scare them off before a friendship has a chance to get started. For another, fear of losing friends if you don’t share all their interests could get you in the habit of pretending to be someone you aren’t. Worst of all, you might wind up “catching” someone’s bad reputation by association. (Stay away from anyone who insults others behind their backs or to their faces, or who tries to convince you it’s fun to break rules; besides setting an example better not imitated, such people usually prove dangerously fickle friends.)
Never, Ever, Ever Try to Buy Popularity at Someone Else’s Expense
Bullying or gossiping about more vulnerable kids will backfire big-time. Even if it gets others to cheer you on, they won’t trust you or stay loyal to you. And you won’t like yourself for it.
And If You Still Feel That “Nobody Likes Me and Nothing Works”
You may be doing something antisocial without realizing it—or you may just think others dislike you. Talk to a counselor or doctor to get to the root of the problem.