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Helping Your Child Make Friends Again

As our children’s social worlds begin to expand and return to a new normal after so many unknowns, parents are wondering how to best prepare young kids to make friends outside the home. And to be honest, it can feel overwhelming for both kids and grown-ups. My son often reminds me of something when we’re working through big feelings and life transitions: “Well, you never lived through a pandemic as a kid!” And he’s right!

A year and half isn’t so long for grown-ups, but my 5-year-old has spent a quarter of his life primarily playing with his siblings at home, missing out on a typical preschool experience. Every family has a different comfort and safety level, and I’m working to prepare my kids to know their personal boundaries and respect others’ boundaries, too. As my family arranges to interact more with neighbors and plans for school, I talked with Dr. Traci Baxley — a parenting coach, educator, and mother of five — about how to navigate nerves, ease anxieties, and empower little ones as we ease into more social situations.

“The isolation — when we needed each other the most — was the hardest. It impacted our mental health and our children’s mental health,” Dr. Baxley said. “In a world that needed more compassion and connection during the pandemic and social unrest, our kids got denied all of that. The basic human connection was missing in a time when we needed that the most.”

Here are some tips she shared with me for helping kids make friends and build social resilience in this transition time after a tough year.

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