We finished up winter hockey season last weekend. My daughter had a great season. She improved in everything -- scored some goals, made some good defensive plays and had a lot of fun. She had more fun this year than she did last year. Some of that is because she's better at the game. But a lot of it is because there was another girl on her team. No matter what we do, life often is better when shared with someone else. With two girls on the team, it was OK to wear pink, have a pony tail and show off your painted toenails. There's a lot to be said for not being the only one that stands out. With two girls on the team, they could stand up for each other and help each other out.
God knows this. From the very beginning of the Bible, He decided that it isn't good for us to try to go it alone. Genesis 2:18 says, "The LORD God said, 'It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.'" We have a built-in need for community, a need to not be alone.
God also tells us in Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 that "Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up." When we have friends to help us, the tough chores get done faster. Friends help us through the tough times. They pick us up, dust us off and help us get back in the game.
Sometimes, though, our kids struggle with making friends. They may be shy. They may just not find anyone that they mesh well with. They may not be making an effort. We need to help our kids learn to make friends in new situations so they can experience the joy of doing life with a friend. If God says two are better than one, then you can bet He's telling the truth.
Try these 5 tips to help your kids make friends in new situations:
1. Encourage your child to make the first move. When the new girl showed up in the locker room the first night of hockey, I made sure my daughter went over and introduced herself. By the time the two girls stepped on the ice they at least knew who the other one was.
2. Do what you can to create opportunities for your child to make a new friend. That may include setting up playdates, carpools or outings so your child can get to know another child. I made sure the coaches on my daughter's team knew it was important to us to have the two girls on the same team so they could get to know each other.
3. Practice new situations beforehand. If your child is starting a new sport or entering a new school, talk about how he or she can deal with the situation. If your child is really shy or unsure of himself, do some role playing before the first day. Let your child practice introducing herself and beginning a conversation.
4. Set realistic expectations. Friendships usually don't happen overnight. They are built over time. If your child comes home from the first day at a new school, complaining about having no friends, don't panic. Encourage your child to keep trying and remind him that friendship takes time.
5. Keep in mind that all kids are different. Some kids thrive on having lots of friends while others only need one or two good friends. Don't judge your child's success on the number of friendships she has. Judge success based on what's right for your child.
Two are always better than one -- in hockey, in school, in life. Help your kids make new friends so they can experience the rewards of having someone there to help with the work, to pick them up when they fall and to have their back when attacked. Making friends is worth the effort.