James W. Caron, Ed.D. Connections Child and Adolescent Group Program

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Social Strategies for the beginning of the school year

The beginning of the school year is a fresh start, a new opportunity to make friends and to put your social strategies into action!  We’ve learned that the first few weeks of school give you the best chance to start a new friendship, or to strengthen a friendship you began last year.  All the kids who are returning to school are in the same situation as you—everyone is feeling a little insecure as school begins, and wondering who their friends will be this year.

So, get off to a strong start by using the social tools we learned about and practiced in our Connections group!  Here are ten tips to get you started:

1) Be friendly – even if you’re feeling shy, take the first step by starting a conversation with a classmate. You can talk to:

  • a “new kid”—someone who is new to your school and doesn’t have friends yet
  • someone who was in a different class last year
  • someone you were friends with last year
  • someone you knew a little bit from last year, but not really a friend

2) Use a greeting and introduce yourself (if you don’t know the other person already). Make yourself approachable by smiling and using other friendly non-verbal signals.

3) Ask questions and be a good listener – you can ask what he/she did over the summer, such as going on a trip, going to camp, learning new sports or games, going to a concert, etc.  Kids like to be asked about their interests.  Think of some follow-up questions, such as: What was your favorite part?, or,  What did you like most about it?  Then you can share a similar experience.  Also, when you find out about other kids’ interests, you can also figure out what things you both like to do!

4) Be prepared to share a few things about your summer, but keep it brief.  If you give too many details, the other person might lose interest.  For example, don’t tell them about every step of your new video game – this could be very boring for the listener (unless he or she has the same game and wants to share some strategies).  Be sure not to just talk about yourself—this will probably not be very interesting to the other person after a while.  Conversations should go back and forth (like a friendly game of tennis).

5) Stay calm and relaxed – if you begin to feel nervous/anxious, use one of the relaxation methods we practiced in group (breathe slowly, relax your muscles, think positively, etc.).  You can practice these every day, and before too long you will be able to feel more calm and in control.

6) Figure out the times of day when you can talk with other kids.  For example, before school, during lunch, any breaks during the day (but not while the teacher is explaining math concepts or giving a history lesson!)

7) Consider joining a school club, activity, or afterschool sport—these are great places to make friends.

8 ) When you find someone who likes some of the same things as you, you can invite him/her to hang out together after school or on the weekend.  (Check with your parents first that you will actually be free at that time.)

9) Keep in mind how you are making the other person feel—when the other person feels comfortable and listened to, he/she is more likely to have a positive experience and would probably want to get together again!

10) Use humor in moderation – a little humor goes a long way, but don’t get too silly or annoying with constant jokes.

Remember, the beginning of the school year may be the easiest time to make new friends, before everyone has “paired off’ and found a small subgroup to belong to.  So, remember the tools we used in our Connections group last year, and get started right away!!