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How to Help Kids Make New School Friends

Establishing friendships seems easy but parents and school staff can help make the process easy and successful.

School is about to start and with that comes anticipation and excitement. There will be new teachers, a new desk or locker, new school books and of course the opportunity to meet new friends. Whether your child is attending a new school or the same school or moving up to a middle or high school, that same opportunity exists but with that potential can come some anxiety.

The famous quote from Ralph Waldo Emerson "The only way to have a friend is to be one" is something all adults understand. All of us remember how much we learned by interacting with our peers at school. However, establishing new friendships can be difficult for some. That is why it is so important for parents and teachers to work together, watch and be involved in kid's interactions.

The teachers and staff at Utica Community Schools understand and prepare for establishing good friendships within the school. "Teachers plan ice-breaking activities to have the children become acquainted (or reacquainted) with one another and to establish friendships," said Vivian Constand, director of elementary education for Utica Community Schools. "For students who are brand new to the school, the teacher will pair them up with a "buddy" who can help them acclimate to the school, including the lunchroom and playground."

Beginning in September UCS teachers plan cooperative learning activities that focus on bringing children together in different groups so that they have the opportunity to expand and create new friendships. Extracurricular activities such as science or social studies olympiads or enrichment classes are more opportunities to be with friends building those friendships and social interaction time.

Parents also need to be involved

According to a parenting article on SheKnows.com, parents should not only be involved but also be conscious of their actions, which kids will model with their own peers. It recommends modeling cooperative behavior, which will show kids how important it is to get along when working together. It also recommends exploring common interest between kids and between parents, too. Having parents developing friendships will help create a sense of community within the classroom. 

One of the best things parents can do is be involved with their kid's school, says Constand. "We encourage our parents to be involved in our schools, both in volunteering and in participating in our parent-teacher organizations. That, in turn, encourages our students to be actively involved in classroom activities and after-school activities.  It also sends a strong message that education is a strong priority in the family." 

Constand also recommends modeling good behavior and maintaining good communication with school personnel. She recommends that parents:

• Talk with your children about their responsibility to be kind to others so that others will be kind to them.

• Help them develop problem-solving strategies in dealing with others outside of school.

• Ask them to let you know if they are experiencing any problems that they can't solve.

• Encourage good decision-making at home; this will transfer over to the school.

• Have them offer solutions on how they might cope with a situation where someone is bothering them, from the initial step of asking them to stop to reporting if they don't.

• Reinforce their efforts to make good decisions and to solve problems.  

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