BlogWellbeingHow to Help Your Child Make Friends in Primary School

How to Help Your Child Make Friends in Primary School

Primary school is a full-on experience for any family — your child is growing up, becoming emotionally aware and forming their own social groups. It’s an incredibly exciting time, however it can also be scary, so helping your child make friends is an important part of the school experience. 

We’ve drawn on the expertise of a primary school teacher to break down five tips that can help your child develop solid friendships whilst at school. 

Keep reading to learn more about how you can help your child make friends in primary school!

Meet Nikki
How do you know if your child has good friendships?
Methods for Promoting Good Friendships

Meet Nikki

Nikki is a primary school teacher who has worked casually across six different schools. She has worked with children of high and moderate needs, and families of diverse backgrounds. 

Nikki’s wide experience makes her the perfect person to offer suggestions about primary school friendships. With all this in mind, let’s get into the importance of making friends!

How do you know if your child has good friendships?

According to Nikki and our further research, there are a couple of key ways that you can identify if your child is thriving socially at school. 

Things to look for that indicate a healthy social life include: 

How to help your child make friends - signs

The way children interact is dependent on school dynamics, upbringing and personality. There’s no ‘one size fits all’ for knowing your child has great friends at school.

However, enjoying going to school and having a good sense of self are usually two of the best ways to know that your child is settling in and making friends. 

How can you promote good friendships for my primary school-aged child?

Parents and teachers play an important role in modelling great friendships to children, regardless of natural social skills. Here are our tips on how you can do that. 

Tip #1: Cultivate a safe environment 

Friendships often start with emotional intelligence. As your child grows, it’s important to give them a space where they can express their feelings and be communicative with others. 

How to Help Your Child Make Friends - QuoteAllowing your child a safe space at home to talk about their feelings is important for two reasons. First, like Nikki has told us, it helps children use emotional language, with which they can better relate to their peers. 

It also shows children they are valued at home, giving them better self-worth when they approach school relationships. It’s much easier to have deep friendships if you know your value and are comfortable in your own skin.

Children are more likely to cope with mistakes or arguments in their friendships if they are confident in their emotions.  

It starts with parents being willing to listen... So they can approach their kids with the right response [in social situations],” Nikki said. 

A space for your child to share how they feel will look different for each family. It may involve asking your child each afternoon how school was and how they are feeling. For other families, it might be a dinner conversation about everyone’s weeks. Find what works for you! 

Tip #2: Model good friendships to your children

The second point is all about monkey-see, monkey-do. Children learn by watching their parents — they evaluate your actions and seek to copy them. Therefore, the way you talk about yourself and interact with the people around you matters. 

Talk to your child when you are feeling sad or excited about something. It’s not necessary to go into the nuances of your emotions, but this simple conversation will show your child that it’s important to open up.

It’s also beneficial to have intentional social interactions around your child, so that good friendships are modelled to them. 

It’s important for kids to know how adults socialise with each other. It’s as simple as going to do the groceries and seeing how parents talk to other people. That is essentially how children absorb information and project [that information] onto others,” Nikki explained. 

There is good evidence to support this claim. Children often imitate those they admire and pick up attributes from this modelling. In fact, neuroscience journalist Maia Szalavitz has found that children learn how to love from their parents

Ultimately, the way you act around your child matters!

Tip #3: Get to know other parents 

A practical tip to helping your child make friends is to get to know other parents at school. In doing so, you form trusting connections that can help both yourself and your child initiate friendships at school. 

A lot of the socialising is done during pick up and drop off times. I think that’s a very good opportunity that parents can capitalise on in terms of meeting new parents. You can also see who your children say hello to. You can see how your children interact with people. In that way… the parents can talk and form friendships,” explained Nikki.

Parent to parent relationships reassure your child of their social circle. They also make you more comfortable about your child’s peers. In fact, you may even form some great friendships of your own out of it! 

Tip #4: Let your child attend social events

This one is a follow-up from the last point. It’s important to let your child attend social events so they have things in common with their peers. A lot of social building occurs outside the classroom. 

You want your children to feel a sense of belonging at school. A lot of those social events that happen outside of school are very important,” Nikki said. “A lot of the talk about what they did on the weekend, a lot of English work is based on what they did over the holidays, [for example].” 

Despite out-of-school interactions being important, many parents are unsure about having their children go to other people’s houses. “A lot of the time parents are quite iffy about who their children hang out with,” Nikki explained. 

This response is very justifiable — your child is young, they can’t discern everything for themselves, and you don’t know the parents well. A simple solution is to get to know other parents, as we talked about in the last point, to help build that trust, and know that your child is in safe hands.

However, other ways you can facilitate friendships are: 

As you build relationships with other parents, you will slowly start to have a trusting network for your child to socialise in! 

Tip #5: Role-play or run through scenarios 

Some children have a really hard time making friends. They may be shy or not understand certain social cues. Getting around this can be a slow process. You may need to speak with teachers or other professionals, in order to better help your child with how to make friends. 

However, one thing that can help is by roleplaying with your child and rehearsing certain scenarios before they get to school. “It’s about going through a conversation and breaking down what you’re saying and why it’s important,” Nikki explained. 

You can go through questions such as “would you like to play with me at lunch?”, or “hello my name is… and I like..” with your children. It’s important to remember that all children develop differently and make friends in diverse ways.

Some may find it very easy to have a conversation with another child at school. Others will need a lot of exposure before this is the case. 

Regardless, remember that your child’s social capacity is not your fault. You are not a bad parent for having a shy child, it’s a matter of helping your child feel more comfortable in social circumstances they will often find themselves in.

There you have it!

With these five tips today, we have learnt all about how to help your child make friends in primary school. You will notice that much of what we discussed is about mindset and modelling more than practical ideas. That’s because making friends is a slow process — hang in there! 

Remember that all children develop social skills at different rates. You’re a great parent regardless of where your child currently sits. 

Wondering how you can motivate your child to do their homework? We’ve got some awesome tips here!

Lucinda Garbutt-Young hopes to one day be writing for a big-shot newspaper… or maybe just for a friendly magazine in the arts sector. Right now, she is enjoying studying a Bachelor of Public Communication (Public Relations and Journalism) at UTS while she writes on the side. She also loves making coffees for people in her job as a barista, and loves nothing more than a sun shower.

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