A new school year offers kids a chance to make new friends. Eileen Kennedy-Moore, who earned her doctorate in clinical psychology at Stony Brook University and is co-author of “Growing Friendships: A Kids’ Guide to Making and Keeping Friends” (Aladdin/Beyond Words, $14.99), offers this advice to kids who could use some social skills tutoring:
- Practice friendly gestures Kids should look a person in their eyes. They should smile and look happy to see someone.
- Use people’s names “If you can, say the person’s name when talking to them,” Kennedy-Moore says.
- Focus on connections “What do you have in common with the other kid? What do you like to do that they like to do, too?” Then talk about that, and make plans to do it together at recess or after school. “Friendships are more stable if kids are together in multiple contexts,” Kennedy-Moore says. Try to see each other in the neighborhood or on the same sports team, for instance.
- Suggest play dates “One-on-one play dates are critical for deepening friendships,” Kennedy-Moore says.
- Don’t come on too strong “Kids think they have to be so amazing and impressive,” Kennedy-Moore says. Don’t overdo it.
- Blend into groups It’s a bad idea to tell kids, “Why don’t you go over to them and ask if you can play?” Kennedy-Moore says. “Kids who successfully join in a group do it without drawing attention to themselves. Slide into the action without interrupting it.”
- Expect that friendships may change “Friendships are pretty fragile for kids. In first grade, half the friendships don’t make it from fall to spring,” Kennedy-Moore says. “Kids who are able to make other friends are fine.”
Kennedy-Moore’s book offers more advice using cartoons and a cat and dog character. She suggests parents read it with their kids. “It can prompt important conversations,” she says.