Children's Hospital Colorado
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Just Ask Children's

How to Help Your Child Make Friends and Fit In

A boy in a bright blue shirt and black shorts races ahead of a boy in a light blue shirt and khaki shorts in a park full of green grass and trees.

We’ve interviewed a Children’s Hospital Colorado psychologist on what parents need to know about their kids’ relationships. Find out if you’re doing the right things to help your child make friends.

An interview with Dr. Jeffrey I. Dolgan, Senior Psychologist at Children’s Hospital Colorado

Q: How can parents help their children choose good friends?

A: Parents need to find out who is in their child’s peer group. You can get a good idea about the other kids by making connections with their families. I suggest hosting something to get everyone together, like a back-to-school BBQ or a soccer team party.

Q: How can parents discourage “mean girl” or “mean boy” behavior?

A: Being a mean girl or mean boy has to do with set-ups. Kids will say, “You’re our best friend,” then turn around and talk about the kid behind his or her back. I think parents know if their child has it in them to act mean or not. It has nothing to do with popularity -- it’s about finding good friends.

Q: How do you encourage a child to have positive relationships with their peers?

A: It starts at home. You learn how to share at home. You learn how to talk to others at home. Do your children have positive relationships with their siblings? Do they have positive relationships with you? That’s where it all begins.

Q: How should parents talk to their children about schools of mixed economic status?

A: Parents should be upfront and say, “Your school has some rich kids and some poor kids.” Then, talk to your child about what that means or doesn’t mean. Make sure, as a parent, you practice what you preach. Don’t tell your child to make friends with everyone and then only hang out with certain people yourself. Get to know the parents of the other kids, and talk to each other.

Q: Is back-to-school shopping an opportunity to talk to kids about consumerism?

A: Yes. I recommend saying something like, “This is what we’re going to buy today. We have money for x, y and z, and if you want something else, you’ll have to give something up.” Set expectations ahead of time, then set a budget and stick to it – even though it can be very, very hard.

Q: Should I support my kid wanting to be “cool?”

A: Almost all kids want to be cool, and parents should encourage their child to experiment and develop his or her own style. The way some kids express themselves may look a little ridiculous, but the “cool” thing is them being themselves. Kids who express themselves freely often become confident and empowered adults.

Q: What about the kids who can’t afford the same things as the other kids?

A: All kids can find ways to be very cool! There are lots of thrift stores and discount stores with unique stuff that kids can use to express themselves.

Q: What about electronics – should I give in to the iPod, iPad and iPhone craze?

A: Go over the school rules about having electronics in class. Talk to your kids about when it’s okay to have them on and off and how to take good care of them. If kids use electronics responsibly, I think it’s okay for them to have them. 

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