15 Social Skills Tips to Ease into the New School Year

By Nadine Briggs and Donna Shea

Whoa boy…here we go…back to school and classroom socializing. Some kids were remote the whole school year last year and their friends were physically together. Others have so many worries about what school will be like when they return. Will they fit into the same friend groups as before? Have friends moved on to new friends? What if they no longer have common interests? Are they so out of social practice that their awkwardness is even more awkward? Will they have to be remote again at some unknown point and deal with all those transitions?

How do we know kids are thinking this way? Because they tell us in our social skills programs. Kids are more anxious than ever about returning to school. It’s certainly understandable that they would be feeling the effects of pandemic social isolation. Our books are full of tips (literally hundreds of tips) that are tried and true and withstand the test of time) but here are a few quick ones to begin getting kids more comfortable with the new school year.

Tips below are excerpted from How to Make & Keep Friends: Tips for Kids to Overcome 50 Common Social Challenges. The book has 10 tips for each topic, 5 of the 10 are below. Have a teen? Check our teen book, How to Make & Keep Friends: Tips for Teens on Life and Social Success.

Making New Friends:

  1. Try to make just one new friend and not several friends all at once.
  2. Be friendly and say hello first to other people.
  3. Practice conversation starters with family so that you are ready to talk with other people.
  4. Remember to listen when other people are talking.
  5. Show that you are friendly with your facial expression. Practice smiling in a mirror.

Joining a Group:

  1. Take a few minutes and observe what the other people in the group are doing before attempting to join.
  2. If the group is sharing a toy, or is doing an activity, try not to grab or take things in an effort to join in.
  3. If the group is doing something that you would like to do, slowly move your body closer to the group.
  4. Barging into the middle of the group will only make people angry.
  5. Do not assume that the other people are going to invite you to join them. They might not be paying attention and might not notice that you want to play.

Staying on a Topic or Changing Topics:

  1. Keep your questions and comments on the same topic that the other person is talking about.
  2. If the conversation becomes quiet, it is probably time to switch topics and ask the other person a different question.
  3. If you switch topics too quickly or without letting the other person know, he or she might not understand and might become confused.
  4. If you wish to change topics, use a topic-switching statement. For example, you might say “this isn’t on the subject, but I wanted to tell you …”
  5. Try using a connecting statement so that the other person understands what your brain is thinking. For example: “I know that we were just talking about who has pets, and I wanted to mention that my aunt’s puppy, Sam, had to go to the vet yesterday.” If you just say “Sam was sick” the person you are talking to will not know who Sam was or what happened.
If you have a child who struggles with social situations, check out our book series, How to Make and Keep Friends.