Tweens and Connecting to PeersTweens are at a tricky crossroad when it comes to social relationships. They’re at a point where they’re not kids anymore. Connecting with other children isn’t as simple as sharing a toy and at the same time, they’re not a teen yet. They don’t have that much knowledge about dealing with the complexities of reaching out to peers.

In short, it’s hard to make friends in middle school. And this could well affect academic performance. Nonetheless, there are many ways to help your tween connect with their peers. Here are some of them:

Encourage them to pursue their interests

This will expose them to a wider social network that shares the same interests. If they’re into reading, let them join a book club. If they’re athletic, encourage them to try out for the school varsity team. It won’t be difficult for them to strike up a conversation if the people they’re with are into the same things they’re curious about.

Ask teachers about school programs your child can join in. In some instances, as City Academy noted, it’s the teachers who’ll reach out to you. For instance, administrators in charter schools that the Salt Lake City government supports try to maintain a close relationship with parents, believing that this is the key to academic success.

Help them ask the right questions

One of the social anxieties of middle-schoolers come from not knowing what to say to their peers. But it’s interesting to note that the commonly used conversation starters are actually questions: “How are you?”, “What’s your name?”, or “How’s the weather?”

Train them to start conversations by asking simple questions. For instance, they could ask a classmate, “Have you finished our math homework already?” This one question could snowball into a long conversation about their struggles with school tasks, and your child might just have a homework buddy in the end.

Educate them about social cues

Communication isn’t just about talking. It’s also about being sensitive to non-verbals. Even at a young age, your children should know how to interpret facial expressions and proxemics. This will allow them to be more empathetic towards others and make them a better friend for their peers. It’s also important that they observe unwritten social rules, such as taking turns when talking and being polite.

Social relationships in middle school are important. If your child is struggling with making friends, use these strategies to help them better connect.