1 Take First Steps
BRANDON’S CHALLENGE: FEELING ALONE
Brandon wishes he had someone to play with at recess, but he doesn’t know how to connect with others. His body language—looking away, standing apart, even tuning everyone out by reading his book—tells them, “I don’t like you, and I don’t want to hang out with you!” That’s not what he’s feeling, but that’s the message he’s sending.
What can Brandon do to Reach Out to other kids and show them he’s interested in being friends?
Have you ever noticed what happens when you arrive at school? Kids say, “Hi!” And they don’t just announce “Hi!” to the air. They greet specific people. They look them in the eye, they smile, and they often say the other person’s name. Try this experiment: The next day you go to school, count how many greetings you hear. You may be surprised by how often kids greet each other.
Greeting people tells them you’re happy to see them. It’s also important to smile and say hi back when someone greets you. If you look away and say nothing or just mumble something, the other person might think you don’t want to be friends.
You may want to practice friendly greetings. They won’t instantly get you friends, but they open the door to friendship. The more you practice greetings, the more comfortable you’ll feel doing them.
Start by greeting family members. Then think of kids at school you can greet. Use your face and your body language to show that you’re happy to see them. Use their names to make the greeting personal. And be ready to respond in a friendly way when someone greets you.
WHY FRIENDLY GREETINGS MATTER
Sometimes kids don’t want to greet others because they worry that they won’t get a response. They’re afraid of feeling foolish or getting rejected and being embarrassed. But you’ll stand out more if you don’t greet people.
You don’t have to be best friends with people to greet them. You just have to know them a little bit and think they’re nice. A friendly greeting takes only a few seconds but it goes a long way toward setting a positive tone and showing other kids that you’re interested in being friends.
What happens after “Hi!”? Keep doing friendly things to show that you like them. You can do these right after the greeting or later. Here are some ideas you can try:
1. Ask interested questions.
Asking questions shows someone you want to know more about them. The best questions to ask begin with what or how because they tend to get longer answers that can lead to a conversation. One or two questions is usually enough at one time. More than that gets annoying. You don’t want to turn the conversation into an interview!
Avoid asking why questions because they can sound mean. It can seem like you’re asking, “Why did you do such a dumb thing?!” even when you’re not.
2. Give an honest compliment.
It feels good to get a compliment, and we tend to like people who notice and appreciate our good qualities. Keep your eyes open for ways that you can compliment other kids. Compliments don’t have to be long or complicated, but they must be honest. If someone gives you a compliment, be sure to smile and say, “Thanks!”
3. Do a small act of kindness.
Being kind is a great way to start a friendship. An act of small kindness tells kids that you like them and it makes you feel good. Be careful not to give away money or favorite things of yours. If the act of kindness is too big, the other kids might feel pressured, and you might feel bad if they don’t return the favor.