New and Lasting Friendships for Parents and Kids

October 22, 2009

Make new friends
And keep the old
One is silver
And the other's gold

Ah, friends. They're worth their weight in gold, and just like gold, you can't have too many of them. At some point in life, you (and your child) are going to find yourselves in a situation where you're feeling lonely and in need of a good friend. Maybe you've just moved to a new town. Maybe your child is starting at a new school. Maybe his best friend (or yours) away. Even if you're already blessed with a circle of good friends, there's always room for one more. But make no mistake, it's not always an easy task, especially if you're quiet or shy. It's never too early to start teaching your child how to make (and keep) new friends, so here are a few tips to make it a bit easier:

Join a playgroup
Find a local parents' club or organization that has regular playdates already organized. Playgroups are usually grouped by age, which makes it easier for your child to bond with others. And since you'll be going through the same parenting joys and sorrows as the other parents in the playgroup, you'll have plenty to talk about.

Join a class
There's nothing like shared interests to jump start a conversation. Sign your child up for a class he loves, like ballet or soccer or gymnastics so that he can meet people who like the same things he does.

Head out to the playground....
If your child needs a friend, go to where the children are.  Many parents or caregivers take their children to their neighborhood park on a regular basis, so if stick to a particular date and time for your playground runs, you'll likely see the same faces again and again.    

.... and take an extra toy with you.
If you have a shy child who finds it difficult to approach a group of children, just take along an extra dump truck, shovel or ball to the playground  Give your child some advance notice that these toys are meant to be shared, and dump the whole lot into the sandbox. Children will flock to your child like bees to honey -- and so will their caregivers. Your child is bound to find a new friend, and so will you.

Make the first move
If you're the new family in town, jump start your social life by making the first move. Join the PTA, become a room parent or volunteer at your church's Sunday School so you can get to know the other families in the neighborhood. Then invite a fellow parent over for coffee, and invite a classmate over for the afternoon.   

Even if you're not the ones moving to a new place, remind yourself and your child that there's no need to limit yourself to your old circle of friends! It's tough enough being the new family on the block, so put on your welcoming hat and make the first move.  Welcome a new family into your neighborhood or school by knocking on their front door with a pan of brownies, inviting them to your block party, or arranging a playdate with your child.  

Keep your old friends
Stay in touch with old friends by exchanging emails, letters and Christmas cards. Have your child write out a birthday card to the friends in his old school or town -- or better yet, put them on the phone so they can hear each other's voices. Keep the memories alive by putting up photos of your child and his friends or making scrapbooks of fun moments they've shared together. And if you're still in the same town but have moved to another school, keeping the friendship alive is easier than ever.  Sign up for the same ballet classes or soccer teams so they get to see each other in an organized group setting.  And remember to keep those playdates and parties going!

From the Parents

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