Your child will meet and make new friends at their school – and so will you. Help your child build strong relationships and learn how you can play a role by connecting with the school community, and especially other parents and carers.
Helping your child make friends
Starting school is a big step on the road towards greater independence for children and making friends on their own is part of that.
Still, there’s a lot parents and carers can do outside school hours to help the process along.
Here are a few tips:
Teach them a few social strategies, like introducing themselves and saying their name.
Engage with other parents so you can organise playdates when friendships do start to form.
Talk to your child and offer any advice you may have about social situations. Share stories about the different friendships you have. How some of them might've been slow to form and others were quicker. If other children are playing a game they want to join, do they need to know the rules?
Understand how your own child likes to make friends and support them in that. Do they like to make contact through sport, by joining the same clubs or reading similar books?
Encourage your child to take part in school-based extracurricular activities like sport, band or chess.
Making friends with parents and carers
Building strong relationships with the school community, and especially other parents and carers, can provide a beneficial support network for the parents and carers of new students.
Here are a few tips:
- Invite your child's friends over for after school activities or playdates at the park and extend the invite to their parents or carers.
- Be a spectator at your child's sports game. Meet their coach and other parents on the sidelines.
- Your school may have a P&C Association. This is a good way to find out about volunteer opportunities at the school and get involved in your child's school events.
- Meet other parents during school pick-up and drop-off.
- Offer to do school pick-up for your child's friends if their parents can't make it.
Childhood friendships are different
When thinking about your child’s friendships, it helps to understand how these may differ from your own; childhood relationships don’t necessarily follow the same rules as adult ones.
For one thing, their nature and focus tends to change over time. Researchers have identified five developmental stages, gradually progressing towards full adult friendship.
Stage one (three to seven years): shifting friendships with children who happen to be nearby
Stage two (four to nine years): one-way friendship with someone who can help achieve goals
Stage three (six to 12 years): reciprocal friendship but only under specific conditions
Stage four (11-15 years): Mutually close, supportive friendship
Stage five (12 to adulthood): friendship which respects the autonomy of each individual even though they may share similar interests and deeper feelings.
Every child is different and there is no precise formula or timeline for how their social life will develop.
But it’s useful to be aware of these stages when trying to advise or help your child with the complications and conflicts that inevitably occur.
Sometimes they might not be ready for the more nuanced approach you have in mind and alternative strategies will have to do until they mature.
On the other hand, it’s important to support clear boundaries for your child and help them reset or end friendships that damage their trust or wellbeing.
Dealing with friendship problems
If your child seems anxious, reluctant to attend school, or eat their lunch, it may be a sign they’re having trouble with friends.
Talking to your child is key to helping them and, to start with, it’s helpful to know who their friends are and how their efforts to make new ones are going.
That way, if problems emerge, discussing them can be part of an ongoing conversation.
If your child is reluctant to open up, try sharing some of your own childhood experiences and ask if theirs are similar or different.
Your child’s class teacher may also be able to help. In fact, they may know what’s going on and already be taking steps to address it.
Teachers can help impart interpersonal skills and provide space or opportunities to resolve problems.
They can also be a valuable source of information about the peer culture in your child’s school and advice on how to help them navigate it.
If you suspect your child is being bullied, contact the school.
Next up ➜
Learn about the wellbeing support services offered at your child's school.