Tips for Facilitating Friendships for Kids
“But what about socialization?”
You’ve probably heard this question, perhaps you’ve even asked it yourself. It is one of the most frequently asked questions I hear about online schools. Parents of home and online schooled students are quick to point out that all socialization does not happen in a classroom between the hours of 8 and 3. Furthermore, the socialization that does take place is not all positive.
Still, when you bring your child home for school, it is important to include a social element in your schooling plan and to make sure that you are facilitating opportunities for interaction and friendship with other kids. If you have previously relied on school to provide social interaction for your kids, or if you’re just looking for ideas for new ways to encourage it, here are some things to keep in mind.
- Make new friends, but try to keep the old ones. Encourage your child to maintain old friendships, while forming new ones. If your child has old friends from a former school, help him or her to keep those friendships alive. Even if he or she is enrolled in new extracurricular groups or teams, remember that it can be uncomfortable to always be the new kid, and forming new close friendships can take time. Help your child to keep his or her old friends by scheduling playdates or outings with old friends in the afternoons or weekends.
- Step out of your comfort zone. Facilitating friendships for your child might require you as a parent to step out of your comfort zone, by approaching other parents to arrange get-togethers for your children. Don’t be shy! Remmber that you are modeling to your child how to make and maintain friendships.
- Keep at it. Remember that it takes time and repeated exposure for a connection and friendship to grow. If you visit a group and it doesn’t click the first time, don’t give up! Unless it’s really not a good fit When you see the beginnings of a connection, encourage it by planning a social visit or activity. Simply signing up for a class or group isn’t enough, it’s important to nurture those connections that result from it.
- Don’t count solely on your school to facilitate friendships. While there are many opportunities for socialization within the K12 community, it’s a good idea to be proactive and look for opportunities for social interaction outside of school. Use your child’s interests to look for opportunities for socialization. If there isn’t a group or club in your area for the kind of interaction that you’d like, consider starting it yourself.
If you’re looking for some ideas for ways to facilitate friendships, here are some good places to start:
- Sports teams or classes: Sports are a great place for kids to meet peers their own age. Be aware however that kids probably won’t be allowed to socialize much at practice. If your child seems to have a connection with another kid on the team, set up a time to get together outside of the scheduled practice. In some states, public schools will allow students to participate on school teams, or you can check your city’s parks and recreation department or YMCA to find sports opportunities for your kids.
- Arts or Science classes: Dance, music, drama, art or science classes, whatever your child’s interest, these are all great opportunities for kids to connect around a common interest, while learning a new skill. Check local studios or museums for these types of classes. Just keep in mind that as with sports teams, it will be important to nurture these relationships outside of class time.
- Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts, Campfire Kids, and 4-H: These types of youth organizations are great for facilitating friendships between kids, as well as teaching new skills and instilling important values. Visit the organizations’ websites to find groups in your area.
- Volunteering: This is a great way to get kids involved in giving back to the community, while meeting and socializing with others. Be aware that some organizations may have a minimum age requirement, or require a parent to be present in order for kids to participate. Try Volunteer Match for a list of opportunities to serve in your area, and check out K12’s clubs and courses for kids interested in volunteer work.
- Homeschool groups: Although students in Virtual Academies are not technically homeschoolers, you may find that your student has more in common socially with homeschooled students than with those in brick and mortar schools. Homeschool groups often welcome online school families (although some may not), and can be a helpful social and educational resource for families. A quick search online can turn up a group near you, or check out this article with tips on how to find one.
- School community events: Visit your school’s Event Calendar to find opportunities for socializing within your school community. Most schools plan frequent events, including field trips, meet and greets, high school hangouts, seasonal activities (like pumpkin patch visits or summer picnics), and much more. These events are great for meeting and getting support from teachers and other families who online school.
- K12 Clubs: K12 has more than 100 clubs for students, in a variety of categories. From academics, to the arts, to hobbies and careers, there’s a club for just about every interest and grade level.
Remember that developing friendships can take time and effort. If you see the spark of a connection between your child and someone else, go ahead and introduce yourself to the other parents. Exchange phone numbers or Facebook info and make plans for a future get-together. Providing your child with opportunities for healthy social interaction is a critical component of schooling your child at home, and can make all the difference in your online school experience.
- thinktanK12 blog: Socialization
- Education.com: How Parents can Facilitate Social Success for Their Children
- Parents Connect: Friends, Socialization, and Homeschooling