Most kids feel a bit nervous and unsettled the first trimester of school, and much of that I think comes from some anxiety about not knowing everyone in the classroom, or maybe missing old friends and not being sure about making new ones. I remember this feeling well, even though I have not been in school for years: I still get this way, a little bit, when I start a new job or join a new group or team of any kind. So I've been trying a few different ways to help my somewhat shy child feel less anxious about making new friends in school this fall. Here's how:
First, I think it's important to help my child know that she is not alone in feeling anxious about making new friends. She likes to hear stories about how I felt this same way when I was a little girl, starting a new school year and being in a new classroom. I also remind her that other kids around her probably feel the same fear she does, because I think it makes them seem less threatening or different to her.
Second, I like to remind my daughter about the friends and familiar faces she DOES have around her in school, because this definitely brings her comfort and calms her fears. I also like to point out that no matter what, she will not be alone because that is just the opposite of what school is all about. I remind her that school is all about learning as part of a community, and that her institution is simply the home of her school community, so she can think of her school in a more fun, nurturing and warmer way (like home) instead of a place of fear or dread (like a scary, unfamiliar place, full of unfamiliar people).
Last, I try to be proactive in meeting some of the other kids and parents, so that I have a face to put to the names when my kid talks about them; and I try to help her make some connections either through play-dates after school, or just finding out from the parents if their kids have some similar interests to mine. My hope here is to help my child feel like she is part of a cohesive group which she BELONGS to, and is not separate or outcast or different from. Enjoying the group you are in means enjoying your peers in that group, and therefore makes them, naturally, your friends.
How do you help your kids feel more confident about making new friends?