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Eight Strategies to Help Your Daughter Make Friends

Advice

As your daughter gets older, you may find yourself setting up fewer playdates and having less control over whom she spends time with—but you can help give her the tools to make great friends on her own. And even if she already has friends, you can nurture her social skills to help her create healthy, long-lasting relationships.

Friend-making doesn’t come easy to all girls. Maybe she’s the new kid at school, and her shyness makes it hard to talk to people she doesn’t know. Maybe her best friend just moved away, and she’s reluctant to forge new friendships. Maybe she faces exclusion or bullying at school and has trouble trusting her classmates. Whatever the obstacle, you can use these eight strategies to help her form strong bonds with new friends. You can also read some letters from real girls to see how they overcame difficulties and formed great relationships. 

girls talking in the bus

 

1. Equip her with conversation starters.

Let her know that even adults have trouble saying the right thing sometimes, and that introducing yourself to new people takes work.

You can practice these icebreaker lines at the dinner table:

  • Find something in common: “I saw you at the concert. Do you like jazz, too?”
  • Offer to help: "I can show you where that classroom is.”  
  • Introduce yourself: “Hi! I’m Alisha. I think we’re in the same class!”
  • Show an interest: “I’ve been wanting to read that book. Do you like it?”    
  • Give a compliment: “I like your haircut. It looks great!”
  • Share a little: “I moved once, too, so I know it’s really hard at first.” 
  • Ask an opinion: “What do you think about the new soccer uniforms?”
  • Offer an invitation: “Want to sit together at lunch?” 

 

girls-talking

 

2. Practice friendly body language.

The way she speaks with her body will make a lasting impression on the friend, even more than the words she says. Practicing together in front of a mirror is a great way to show her how subtle changes to her posture and facial expression can communicate different emotions.

Teach her to:

  • Look people in the eye, not over their shoulder or at their feet.
  • Keep her head up and arms relaxed.
  • Lean inward or nod along to show interest in what the friend is saying.

Of course, there are certain conditions that can make sending and receiving nonverbal cues especially difficult, such as autism spectrum disorder. If your daughter needs extra help in this area, organizations like Autism Speaks have great resources and advice.

 

girls-talking

 

3. Teach her to be a good listener.

People love to feel heard, and friendships grow stronger when two people listen—truly listen—to each other.  This skill is a great one to start developing at home, especially if she has siblings or cousins to practice with.

Share these tips with your girl:

  • When someone else is talking, keep your eyes on them and pay attention to they’re saying. Don’t pick at your shoelace or stare at the person’s colorful headband.
  • Don’t interrupt. It can be tempting to jump in, but no one likes feeling cut off.
  • Consider the other person’s point of view. Try not to judge them, even if you disagree with the way they’re responding to a problem.  
  • Offer support with comments like, “Wow, that must have made you really mad” or “You must have been so happy!”
  • Don’t give advice unless the other person asks for it. Saying the problem out loud and finding sympathy might be all that the person needs. Plus, a solution that works for you might not work for the other person.    
girls-talking

 

4. Get her out of the house. 

 

It’s not likely that she’s going to make friends sitting by herself in front of the TV. Here are some things your daughter can do to interact with other kids:

  • Play a sport. Regular practices and exciting games and events can lead to close friendships with other kids. Playing a team sport like soccer or basketball is a great way to build communication skills and gain confidence. But if team sports aren’t her thing, consider individual sports that still involve group practices, like ice skating, Tae Kwon Do, or fencing.    
  • Join a club (or start one!). What is she into? If it’s reading, help her join a book club at the library. If it’s baking, encourage her to invite other kids over for a baking club meeting. Getting girls together who like the same thing is almost sure to pay off. 
  • Volunteer. Watch for opportunities for her to help out in the community, such as walking dogs at an animal shelter, passing out water at a 5k race, or working at a bake sale for a cause she cares about. 
  • Sign up for a class. What has she always wanted to try? Yoga? Orienteering? Comic book illustration? Not only will a class surround her with people who have a similar interest, she’ll also learn something new. Libraries and community centers often offer classes for free on a variety of topics, so looking there is a great place to start. 
girls-mom-talkin

 

5. Boost her self-esteem.  

It’s hard to forge good relationships with others if she doesn’t have a healthy relationship with herself first. You can encourage confidence by praising your daughter’s great traits, like creativity, kindness, and intelligence. If you notice her using self-deprecating language like, “I’m so stupid,” or “No one likes me,” call her out on it. Show her how to use words to build herself up, not tear herself down.
For more self-esteem tips, check out this Raising Her Self-Esteem article.         

 

girls-talking

 

6. Encourage her to show kindness.

Kids are drawn to people who make them feel welcome, and relationships become stronger when friends show concern for each other’s well-being. Teach her to spot bullying and work on strategies for calling out mean behavior. Other kids will notice her kindness and be drawn to it.

Here’s a letter from a real girl who formed a friendship after a classmate stood up for her:

I hadn’t been in class with Emma for very long because she moved up to our grade and joined our class late. She seemed nice, but we never got to know each other. To be honest, I was a little scared by how smart she was. I mean, she skipped a whole grade!

Anyway, we were in class, and I was reading aloud in our small group. I accidentally missed a word. It had a weird ending, and I didn’t read it the right way.

That’s when Maggie, another girl in my group, embarrassed me by saying loudly, “The word is buffet. I felt so bad, I just wanted to run away.

Just then, out of nowhere, Emma piped up and said, “Maggie, that’s mean. Everybody misses words. Buffet is hard.” I was stunned. The whole group was stunned. And Maggie, who is used to getting away with rude comments, was stunned, too.

Just then, our teacher had everyone in the class go back to their seats. I mouthed “thank you” to Emma.

After that, I couldn’t wait until lunch to really thank her. I let her know how much I respected her for what she had done. We played all recess and most recesses after that. She’s still one of the best friends I ever had.

Grateful

P.S. Maggie was a lot less rude from then on, too.

 

girls-helping-each-other

 

7. Nourish the friendships she already has. 

Did she make a friend from a different school during the last cheerleading season? Did she meet an interesting girl from across town in her summer reading program? Did a good friend move to a different town? A friendship doesn’t have to fizzle out just because two kids don’t see each other very often.

Make an effort to get the girls together when possible, such as for a sleepover, or invite the girl’s family to a holiday party or movie night. Even if her friend is too far away to meet in person, there are plenty of great ways to stay in touch. Encourage your daughter to text, call, and write letters to the friend.

Here’s a letter from a real girl who found a way to carry on a great friendship, even after she quit the sport that brought them together:

 

Danielle and I were on the same gymnastics team. We spent long hours together at the gym and got along great. Finally, I thought, the friendship I’ve always dreamed of. Then one day everything changed.

New levels for gymnastics teams came out, and Danielle moved up a level. I didn’t. I was crushed and cried all afternoon. I felt sure the days of our perfect friendship were over. I blamed myself for not being a better gymnast.

I felt hurt and even angry at Danielle for being able to do more in the gym. To make matters worse, it was becoming clear that gymnastics just wasn’t for me, and I ended up dropping from the team altogether.

Then one lonely afternoon, the phone rang. It was Danielle saying how much she missed our friendship. I was so happy because I had missed her, too. We got together that day and came up with a plan to build back our friendship. We even asked our moms for help. Now Danielle’s mom drops her off at my house in the morning so that we can walk to school together.

We’ve worked hard to find time to be together, and as a result, our friendship has grown. In fact, it’s stronger than it’s ever been. For us, gymnastics brought us together, but true friendship—and determination—kept us that way.

Reunited

girls-smiling

 

8. Model great friendship behavior. 

Your girl watches how you treat and interact with your friends. Do you carve out time to spend with friends? Do you call to check in when a friend is going through a hard time? Do you speak positively about your friends when they’re not around? Your daughter’s paying attention, and chances are that she’ll adopt some of those same behaviors.

In this letter, a real girl tells the story of a time a friend and her mom went the extra mile to help after a devastating event:

 

It was like any other day—I was at home, just hanging out, and I went to the garage to get something. When I opened the door, all I could see were flames! I was frantic! I ran to the neighbors. We called the fire department, but then all we could do was wait. I watched everything my family owned burn to the ground. I was devastated. The sadness I felt is hard to describe. I was sad about so many things, but my mom says one of the first things I said was, “My doll. I lost my doll.” The next few days were kind of a blur, but one thing I remember is my friends. They just kept on coming, bringing us food and clothes. But one friend really surprised me. It was two days after the fire, and my mom and I were rummaging through the remains of the house. My friend Wendy walked up. She had moved a few months before and now lived two hours away. When our eyes met, I was overjoyed. I couldn’t believe she had come all that way. Wendy handed me a long box. When I opened it, my heart skipped a beat. It was Wendy’s doll like mine and a whole bunch of clothes for her. “I want you to have her” was all she said. Then we hugged each other for a long time. I was so touched, I didn’t know what to say. I will never forget the feeling I had that day or what Wendy did for me. The doll and my friend will always have a place in my heart.

Overjoyed

Some girls can walk into a room and instantly connect with other kids, while other girls benefit from practice and coaching. Nurturing your daughter’s social skills now can help set her up for a lifetime of healthy, long-lasting friendships.

For more friend-making advice, your girl can check out Friends: Making Them and Keeping Them.

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