Worried about your child making friends when they start primary school?

Every child is different. Some come home from the first day of school chattering about the dozen new best friends they’ve made, and others can take a little while to warm up to their classmates. But if you’re concerned about how your child will cope, there are lots of things you can do to grow their confidence before school starts.

Saying goodbye

Starting primary school is a big change in your child’s young life and they might have to say goodbye to friends at nursery or preschool. That can be heartbreaking to watch, but children adapt quickly and there are so many new friends for them to meet. And just because they won’t see them at school doesn’t mean they’ll never see them again! Stay positive and build the excitement up as much as you can.

Big feelings

Your child might thrive when meeting new people at school. They might be nervous and upset. They might also not react the way you expect them to. You can’t predict how your child will feel, but you can be there for them and help them understand what they’re going through.

While big emotions can feel unpleasant sometimes, they are a healthy part of life. Help your child to describe these feelings rather than labelling them as good’ or bad’. Are they nervous? Excited? Afraid? And why is that? Conversations like this will help your child gain a better understanding of what they’re going through and build their resilience.

Meet as many new faces before school as possible

Your child’s school will arrange taster sessions, welcome meetings and tours before they start, which is a perfect opportunity to meet classmates. If you can, invite a classmate over to play. This will put your child at ease when they go to school as there will already be a familiar face in the classroom.

Remind your child that their classmates will be new too, and the teachers will be looking after all of them to make sure they settle in. It might comfort them to know they won’t be the only one, and everyone will be a little bit nervous – even if they don’t seem like they are.

Ps and qs

Practice social skills with your child at home, such as smiling, making eye contact, sharing, and being helpful and kind.

Talk to them about what makes them happy and sad, but also what makes other people happy and sad: If you took a toy away from another child because you wanted to play with it, how would it make them feel?” This is also a good opportunity to talk about compromise and how sharing can make everyone feel a little bit happy rather than one person feeling very sad. Role-play games are great for this.

It’s okay if your child doesn’t completely get’ the whole sharing and compromise thing at first. The school environment will help them enormously with their social development and you’ll notice big changes within the first few weeks of school.

You don’t know what will happen, and that’s okay

Unfortunately, worry is a big part of being a parent. It’s completely natural to wonder if your little one will make friends, but that’s also what makes being a parent so special – you don’t know who your child’s bestie will turn out to be, or whether they’ll be the kind of person to enjoy having lots of friends or a small, close-knit friendship group. All you can do is be there to support them, so try to enjoy the process (even if it’s scary at times!).

If you’re worried about friendships and social skills once school starts, your child’s teacher will be there to help. They’ll have the knowledge and experience to put your mind at ease.

Top tip!

Meet other parents in our Facebook group

Join our Be School Ready 2024 Facebook group, Parentkind’s hangout for parents of school starters, and chat to other parents with children starting school this September.

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