The beginning of a new year gives kids a chance to start over, continue along a path, and make smart choices. Here’s what you need to ask your child at this very moment—before the new year starts—and what to do next.
1. Ask your child: Would you rather have one or two good friends you can count on no matter what—or be popular with a bunch of kids who might talk behind your back?
Why you should ask: The constantly changing social scene in class or after school can make it hard for kids to resist the urge to yield to peer pressure or join a certain crowd. But the sooner a child learns the value of a friendship that’s based on acceptance, honesty, and loyalty, the more confident she’ll feel going the way that’s right for her.
What to do next: Have a heart-to-heart talk about what it means to be a good friend so your child can find and be one.
2. Ask your child: Would you rather participate in an after-school activity where you can make new friends—or join a club or team with the friends you already have?
Why you should ask: Every new year presents an opportunity for kids to expand their horizons. And while it’s important to have a group of close and trustworthy friends to hang out with, this is the time in their lives when youngsters should remain open to expanding their horizons, sampling new activities, and meeting and spending time with new friends as well.
What to do next: Make sure you welcome new ideas and are willing to broaden your own horizons to set a good example. Show your child how venturing out can help kids find friends who share their interests and avoid pressure to conform.
3. Ask your child: Would you rather participate in a sport where you can excel individually—or one where you can share triumphs and disappointments with your team?
Why you should ask: Kids who play individual sports can more easily see the rewards of their own efforts. On a team, individual accolades are secondary to the team’s success.
What to do next: Encourage your solo performer to at least try a team sport. He might enjoy working with others to improve his own skills or achieve a goal and appreciate how team spirit helps build confidence and encourages leadership skills to emerge.
4. Ask your child: Would you rather have the freedom to do what you want by working alone on a project—or distribute the work by collaborating with a group?
Why you should ask: Group effort teaches kids to work collaboratively with peers, listen to others’ ideas, express their own, and share responsibility for the task. Working alone encourages creativity and independence.
What to do next: Help your child determine on a case-by-case basis the benefits of time management and efficiency against the advantages of splitting the workload among the members of the group.
5. Ask your child: Would you rather start a conversation with the new kid at school—or wait for that student to approach you?
Why you should ask: Socializing is part of life. Knowing how to break the ice and strike up a conversation gives kids an advantage in everyday and unchartered social territory.
What to do next: Remind your child that by saying hi first, she could make another kid really happy—and make a friend for life!