Teaching YOUR Kids to be First Friends

Lonely child by wall at school
First Friends Needed!

Have you ever moved your family to a new community? If you have, you can probably remember the feeling in the pit of your stomach when you sent your kids off to school on that first day knowing that they did not have any friends waiting to greet them. It is one of those feeling that often leaves a PARENT in tears as they drive away from the school. It is the feeling that is also the cause of many a stomach ache or restless sleep on the part of kids.

Your child has the ability to make a scary day turn into a happy day. Your child can be the difference for any new kids in their class. You may have to plant the seed, but the rewards will be great!

Here are 4 things you can do to make sure your child discovers that s/he can make a difference!
1) RAISE AWARENESS – This weekend, when you are with your kids, wonder aloud….. “I wonder if there will be new kids in your class this year.” “I wonder how they are feeling right now as they think about going to a new school where they don’t yet have any friends.”
2) ENCOURAGE ACTION – After you chat a bit about what it feels like to be new and without friends ask the question, “Do you think there is anything YOU could do to make them feel comfortable and happy?” Encourage your child to think of ways that THEY can be the “First Friend” to this new child. Here are a few ideas for some simple things that make a difference…but I bet your child can come up with these and more
a. Smiling…..and going to the new person and smiling, saying Hi and telling him/her your name.
b. Invite them to play (You might want to also discuss what to do if he/she says nothing or is not responsive to your child. You might want to talk about why people may not respond to you right away (They are nervous, they are shy, they are sad, they are scared, etc))
c. Introduce him/her to others in your class
d. Ask your teacher if you can stand by him/her to make sure he knows where to go and what to do
3) REMIND THEM of your discussion when they leave for school in the morning and encourage them.
4) DEBRIEF AFTER SCHOOL – At supper, talk about the first day and ask whether there were new classmates. Ask whether you were able to be a “First Friend” today. Ask how the new friend responded and encourage your son/daughter to continue to watch for ways that s/he can help the new child. Even if they don’t end up being close friends, imagine how it will feel if someone is regularly asking if s/he can help find something, or if there is someone who regularly seeks out the person to invite them to play. Remind them that it might take several invitations for a new person to respond…encourage your child to keep trying and if s/he is not making progress, encourage them to encourage their friends to try too.

Besides helping the new class mate feel important and welcomed there are great benefits to your kids too. Thinking about how other people feel and helping your child realize they can make a difference helps them discover their own sense of purpose, it empowers them, builds long lasting critical thinking skills helps them become “other” oriented and helps them learn to love.

Here’s to raising a generation of First Friends!

Cindi Veenstra

By the way, we would love to hear of your kids success stories in the next couple weeks!