Photo by Julia M. Cameron

My son is starting eighth grade at a new school. He’s shy and the pandemic didn’t help his social skills. I’m worried about him making friends. Any advice? 

First and foremost, it’s OK to be worried, but make sure you center the conversation on your son’s feelings about friends.

That said, he probably is feeling nervous about going to a new school after a pandemic. It sounds basic, but beginning with his interests is a good start. Is he into video games, books or art? Find those avenues at his new school. I firmly believe that even the shyest of students can find their kindred kids if they put themselves out there a little. We can help by finding organized activities to join as one start. My middle school has a bustling after-school program with a wide variety of clubs as well as in-school lunch gatherings from chess club to language club to guitar class.

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School counselors can help with some subtle direction — many a kid has made a long-term friend starting with a nudge from a counselor to sit together at lunch — so feel free to reach out to his counselor for a little help.

Back to my first point, though: How you as the parent go about supporting him will make a big difference. It’s vital that you support and help without projecting your own feelings and worries on him. The quickest way to shut down a shy kid is to make him feel like there’s something wrong with him for not having enough friends. Go slow, encourage activities, ask questions, don’t push — and accept that he will find his way. He certainly isn’t alone in this pandemic social reset.

Sahjo Brown
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