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How To Help Your Kid Make New Friends

Role playing and other ways to give your child confidence

If you know Oak Cliff, you know that the community is tighter than your favorite pair of skinny jeans. We’re talking a your-neighbor-knows-your-kids’-names-and-your-mom’s-name type of community. So when mom of two Michelle Meals moved from Oak Cliff to Northwood Hills in Far North Dallas, you could say she was a little uncertain about making new friends. In Oak Cliff, Meals was involved with the early childhood parent teacher association as well as mom groups, and her son Henry had lots friends in the neighborhood.

“I was 6 months pregnant with [Henry’s brother] when we were planning to leave Oak Cliff,” Meals says. “I was nervous to leave the community that we had there.”

So what happens when your kid is forced to make new friends because of a move—or when your kid just needs new friends? How can you help?

Mother Knows Best 

In North Texas, where many of us were raised on Southern hospitality, it’s likely you’ll find people more than willing to welcome you to the neighborhood. “Literally the day we pulled up in our little Northwood Hills area, I look across the street, and there’s this precious mom coming out,” Meals says. “She was maybe around the same months pregnant, maybe two or three months behind me, and had a 2-year-old. Here we are, two moms in the same boat. You know how moms go: Within 15 minutes, she was like, ‘Here’s what you’re getting involved with; here’s who you’re going to meet; here’s my phone number.’”

For kids who are shy, it can be helpful for Mom to make friends first—then it’s easier to schedule play dates and ensure the kids will see each other often enough to become close. When you have a friend, your child has a friend. It’s a win-win.

So don’t be afraid to talk to other moms about where they were able to make friends, especially since a neighborhood mom is going to know a lot about the different mom groups in the area. (You can also visit dfwchild.com to find our list of local mom groups.) Joining a group that gets together for play dates is a convenient and fun way to introduce your kid to new friends. In her new neighborhood, Meals found the Valley View Playgroup, where she also learned about the Future Spring Valley Gators, a group for prekindergarten kiddos zoned for the local elementary school. 

“I think that where your kids go to school ends up being such a crucial place for moms to connect,” Meals says. “You’re seeing each other every morning at drop-off. You’re seeing each other every day at pickup. You don’t even realize how many times you ask another mom that your kid goes to school with, ‘Oh my gosh, my car keys! I can’t find them. Can you pick my kid up from school?’ or ‘Shoot! I’m out of yogurt. Can you pack an extra yogurt for my kid?”

A Little Push 

Although parents would love to find such an organic fit into their community, sometimes it takes a little more umph. “It’s challenging for kids [to make new friends] because kids are afraid of being rejected,” explains Allen mom of two Carly Chambers, whose name has been changed for privacy reasons. When kids are younger, “everything is embarrassing,” says Chambers. “So what I’ve done with them since they were little is I’ve done role play on things that happen in school and how to talk to people and how to respond to people. You have to build them up as kids. You have to give them that confidence.”

For example, you can challenge your child to approach you as if you were a new kid, and have them guide the conversation from introductions to interests and finally an invitation to play. “Kids don’t know [how to make new friends],” Chambers says. “Someone has to teach them.”

Chambers has a 9-year-old son who is more reserved and was bullied in school. She believes that the bullying has made it more of a challenge for her son to come out of his shell and make friends. “My son worries what the world thinks,” she says. “He’s good when meeting people, but he fears rejection a lot.”

Encouraging your little one to go outside of their bubble can give them the confidence boost they need to make new friends. When Chambers is at the park with her kids, she often tells them to ask other kids to play. For example, one time her son was playing basketball by himself. He wanted his mom to play with him, but she saw there was another child playing basketball alone as well. Chambers told her son to invite the other child to play; he did, and the kid agreed.

If you’re looking for even more ways to help your kiddo, Meals suggests searching for play groups online, checking out a coffee shop or library for postings about mom groups, and getting involved in your kid’s school, even in a very small role. Also consider getting your kid involved with a sport or club. When your child is among others they share a common interest with, it can be easier for them to find someone compatible. Soon enough, your kid will be surrounded by a community of friends and be well equipped for a future of friend-making.

Be A Joiner

Get your kid (and you!) plugged into a new social scene at clubs and play hubs like these, and go to dfwchild.com to find mom groups near you. 

Kids-Only Hangouts
In addition to tumbling classes for ages 4 months–12 years, The Little Gym frequently hosts Parents’ Survival Night—kids socialize, make music and build with Legos.
Multiple locations; thelittlegym.com

Kids can hang out and make new friends during Parents Night Out at YMCA locations. Events are held on select Friday and Saturday evenings; find details online.
Multiple locations; ymcadallas.org

The all-in-one place for kids to join a sport and socialize, Win Kids has classes ranging from gymnastics to music, plus parent’s night out every Saturday night for ages 3–12. While PNO offers more structured activities, every Friday night ages 8–14 can hang out in the gym until 11pm for open play and dance competitions.
3000 Waketon Road, Flower Mound; 972/355-9988

Play Areas
The Play Street Museum locations are perfect for play dates for ages 1–8 or meeting new friends as kids play pretend in the themed indoor spaces.
Multiple locations; playstreetmuseum.com

Geared to older kids (second grade and up), SPARK! has an impressive system of tunnels and slides made from repurposed materials—a great setting to explore with new friends.
1409 S. Lamar St., Suite 004, Dallas; 214/421-7727

Delve into the safari-themed play village at EQ Kids Club, where ages 0–8 can exercise their physical, mental and social skills in the playhouses and educational activity areas.
3245 Main St., Suite 239, Frisco; 469/579-4926

While parents mingle in KidMania’s adult area, the kids can romp through the maze or challenge a new buddy in the arcade. There’s a toddlers-only space for children 3 and younger to play with others their own size.
Multiple locations; kidmania.com

Besides an imaginative open play space for infants to age 10, The Kids Play Co. has classes and events—yoga, music, art and more—where kids (and parents) can socialize.
2701 Custer Parkway, Richardson; 469/778-0300

Take your tyke during open play hours at Small World BIG Imagination, where infants and older can go shopping at a mini Central Market or hop in a boat to fish.
280 Commerce St., Suite 125, Southlake; 682/305-7924

The 4500-square-foot indoor play area at Peek n Play transports kiddos into a mini play town that has a tree house with a slide that dips into a ball pit. They also have cars to drive to the hospital and a house for some cooking.
2805 E. Grapevine Mills Circle, Suite 150, Grapevine; 214/222-5514

At Sky Zone, kids can dive into the foam pit, balance on the SkyLine or joust gladiator-style. Toddlers can run and roam in a special area just for them.
3823 Irving Mall, Irving; 469/499-3100; skyzone.com

The sprawling Kid’s Kastle Playground at Unity Park is ideal for a game of hide-and-seek with newfound friends, and there are plenty of benches for parents.
2200 Briarhill Blvd., Highland Village; 972/317-7430; highlandvillage.org