School Is Not the Best Place to Make Friends

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friends

But school is where all the kids are, right? It’s what movies, social media, and perhaps even your own experience has convinced adults, that your child will find their BFF at school. In fact, not having friends is one of the significant fears parents have each school year. Yet, the reality is that school is an artificial environment that does not actually lend itself to friendship. Accepting that school is not the best place to make friends will free both you and your child from unhealthy social stress.

Friends versus Classmates

Authentic friendships are formed based on shared interests and experiences; living in the zip code and having the same teacher for 50 minutes a day are not shared interests. So, expecting our kids to like everyone in their classes, invite each child to their party, or to ‘find’ their best friend is unrealistic and puts a lot of pressure on everyone. 

School is a place to learn – academically, socially, and emotionally. Life is filled with people that you need to constructively work with, even if you aren’t friends with them. Teaching your child how to be friendly and respectful to other people at school is a lifelong skill. But that doesn’t mean they need to spend time with them outside of school or even necessarily like the people they’re working with. 

So, if you don’t find friends at school, where do you find them? 

Sports. Clubs. Volunteering. Arts. Help your child get involved in things that they really enjoy. When they are around people who share a common interest, friendships will form more organically. There will never be a lull of things to talk about and chances are your schedules will align. When kids are connected socially outside of school, they don’t feel left out when other people share about what they did over the weekend. Your child will have a sense of peace and confidence when it comes to navigating social situations at school because they will be confident in themselves, their choices, and their own social relationships. And, if something does go wonky socially at school, their entire world doesn’t get impacted. Sometimes, you can find these opportunities at your school, like with after-school or lunch clubs. But, if your child has been struggling socially, a new environment and a new group of people may be just what they need. 

But, what about lunch?

The unstructured nature of lunchtime can be one of the most stressful times of the day for a student. During lunch, there’s no protocol guiding their interaction and some kids worry about being lonely or isolated. First, make sure that the fear of being alone at lunch is your child’s and not yours. Many kids need the downtime to regroup for the afternoon of classes. They may need the time to just eat and not think about holding a conversation. 

For those who want to be social at lunch, it’s helpful to circle back to being a good classmate. Part of being a good classmate is being positive, respectful, and friendly. If your child is able to do those things, then chances are there will always be someone to sit with at lunch. You can practice how to ask to join a table. Or make a plan to sit with someone new each day. Or find another student who is sitting alone and ask to join them. If they are not relying on lunchtime to be with their “friends” it becomes much easier to navigate. 

As parents, we can take the pressure off of our kids. We can help our children go to school each day with the right mindset. So much of the stress at school is caused by expectation and mindset, both of which are in our control. Let’s help them keep perspective and reframe the day. And, it never hurts to drop a little note of love in their lunchbox. Drop a comment below to share how you help your child connect with their passions and interests and make friends along the way.

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Tara O’Brien is an interpersonal relationship coach, teacher, ADHD expert, and creator of the O'Brien Method. Tara teaches moms how to quickly shift the dynamics in their home by eliminating the fear, doubt, overwhelm, and frustration inherent in raising children. Tara's clients develop a deep connection with their child, an unshakable confidence to handle whatever life throws at them, and a powerfully calm presence for their family. For more information about her approach, coaching programs, or to schedule an initial conversation, check her out at www.dramafreeadhd or follow her on Facebook and Instagram.

2 COMMENTS

  1. Interesting perspective. I moved around a lot so finding friends at school was a must because I was in a new state, city, school. It was stressful when I didn’t find friends at a certain school. I love taking the pressure off and definitely make an effort to find different crowds outside of school for my kids

    • Thank you for sharing your experience! Finding friends at school can be such a stressful experience for both the child and the parents. I’ve found that because school is such a large part of our kid’s day and our schedule as parents, we sometimes need a reminder to change things up, especially if our child is struggling.

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