Each new school year is a fresh opportunity to strengthen old friendships and develop new ones. Whether your child attends school with familiar faces or is entering a new school where she knows no one, a few key tips from Mom and Dad can help guide her toward making friends wisely.

Be kind. One of the simplest ways to make new friends is to reach out and be kind to others. Teach your daughter that simple gestures can often spark long-term friendships, such as inviting a lonely student to sit with her at lunch or helping a struggling classmate with math. If your daughter is new to her school, encourage her to be kind to everyone, not seeking out the popular crowd alone but looking for the value in every student. Pray she will be drawn to like-minded kids who also prioritize kindness.

Be discerning. Explain that the best kind of friends are those who draw us closer to God. That doesn’t necessarily mean every friend needs to be a Christian; often close friendships are wonderful opportunities to witness and share the good news of Jesus. But your tween should seek out friends who share her values: honesty, acceptance, kindness and loyalty. And encourage your daughter to discern these “good” traits from “bad” (such as lying, cheating, gossiping, disrespecting authority, etc.) when choosing who to befriend.

Be confident. Your daughter is a child of God, and her identity is secure in Him. Nothing the other kids say or do can change her inherent worth in Christ, so encourage her not to allow gossip or rejection from other students to affect what she believes about herself or her King. Remind her that everyone sins, and sometimes those sins come out as unkindness toward others—especially, unfortunately, during the tween and middle school years. Encourage her to rise above the “norm” of judgmental or cliquey behavior and accept others for who they are {even with their imperfections} while staying true to who she is {also imperfect yet covered by the grace and worth of Jesus Christ}.

When friendship struggles arise, be available to talk with your child and point her toward the One who will never leave her or forsake her. Consider meeting with the school guidance counselor to get insight on the classroom dynamics, which might also help you better understand how to encourage your daughter through the rough terrain of tween social life. Ultimately, God will use her friendship joys and challenges to shape who she becomes— “being confident of this, that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 1:6).