Like Alden, many children will feel at sea for the first few days in a new class--especially if their favorite go-to buddies from last year aren't around and they can't identify any new insta-friends in their class. A few kids will be lucky enough to readily pair up with their new seatmate. But most others, unfortunately, find the transition more difficult and will worry about how to hold onto their old friendships, even though it's totally natural for these connections to fade. Resist the urge to say, "Don't worry. You'll make new friends this year!" notes Dr. Anthony. "Kids in this age group are old enough to understand that it's not that easy to make new friends." However, there are ways you can help him maintain his old friendships, for example, through playdates or a shared extracurricular activity. "It was a big relief when Alden and Gio finally figured out that they'd see each other every day at recess," says Brandt.
While keeping old friends is important, of course, you can also encourage your child to expand his horizons a bit. As he settles into the routine of the new year, ask him about the kids whom he's meeting in his class. What are they interested in? Who sat with him at lunch and what did they talk about? Once he identifies a few friend prospects, you can suggest a low-pressure activity, like inviting a kid and his mom to join you guys on the playground for ten minutes or so after school lets out. "You don't have to orchestrate a whole playdate right off the bat," Dr. Anthony says. "That may feel too formal for them."