Starting school or kindergarten can be a challenging time if you do not know anyone.  Even if you made all the best laid plans, and attended nursery (Kita in Swiss German) in the same village where you children build friendships.

When my daughter started school she was put in a different class then all her kindergarten friends.  It was heart breaking as she spent 5 years making friends and then suddenly she was on her own.  As a Mum I approached the school but they had their rules, and you could not change classes (there were 5 classes in total).  As a Mum I also knew that this lesson would come at some point, so as tough as it was: making friends, networking and being ok with ones self is a key skill in life.  My daughter learnt this lesson early on and we navigated it together.  

I will not say it was easy as initially in some ways it hindered her German as she would come home crying, and withdrew a little.  Secondly, she went to one extreme attempting to get everyone to like her, now as she starts school she has the balance just right.

The key was a bit like we make friends and connections as adults, 'how to win friends and influence them'.

1. Empathy - we talked to her about how the other children were feeling. How did she think other kids felt that did not know her, 'did they know anyone' and this helped her to identify that she was not alone.  That other children might also be feeling the same.  We worked on treating others the way she would like to be treated.

2. Observing - we talked to her about observing what people were doing, looking at their interests.  She could then see what other people were playing, and look at either playing with them or getting others to play together. She actually became the master of this, and leads groups into playing activities together.

3. Acting on commonality - acting on a commonality, so once she observed an interest and could influence what to do with that and act on that commonality.  Sometimes this meant she may play what she wants, and others it meant compromising or joining in something new.

Today 2 years later we have a different child.  It was not easy but she has the confidence in new surroundings, she can go into a place where she knows no one and she's thrives and has started to navigate the difference between true friends and acquaintances.  In some ways I wish she did not have to learn this too early and in others we don't get to pick the lessons we have to help navigate in motherhood.

Growing up in a different country, different language and giving children tools to make friends when they have none

Growing up in a different country, different language and giving children tools to make friends when they have none

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