For many tweens, school brings a transition from elementary to middle school. This might mean changing school buildings or merging with other students from throughout the area. Add to that the increase in social drama that’s common among middle grades, and school can rapidly become unfamiliar or even hostile territory for your tween. Learning how to make new friends and reach out to others can be a crucial skill in middle school and beyond. Here are three ways to help your tween learn how to make new friends at school.

Be the kind of friend you want to have. In order to make good friends, it’s important to be a good friend. Ask your tween what characteristics she looks for in others, such as honesty, kindness, trustworthiness and a love for Jesus. Then encourage her to display those same qualities toward others. The right friends will be drawn to her positive qualities. And even if other students don’t respond in kind, your tween will know she has honored God with her own behavior and choices.

Try new things. Middle school is a great time for tweens to expand their horizons or explore certain interests. School clubs, sports, or elective classes can introduce your child to new groups of students and help her find kids with similar interests. At this age, participating in activities together is one of the primary ways students get to know each other. So encourage your tween to discover which activities pique her God-given interests. She’s likely to find some kindred spirits among the crowd.

Open your home and your heart to other kids. Finally, as parents, we have a wonderful opportunity to create an environment in which our kids can spark and grow new friendships simply by inviting new friends to spend time with our daughters. Allow your tween to invite new pals over for dinner or crafting. Take them out for ice cream, shopping, or other fun outings. Provide opportunities for your child to solidify friendships outside of school and within your positive influence. This alone can help your tween make and keep new friends for the long haul.

“A sweet friendship refreshes the soul.” (Proverbs 27:9b, MSG)