Back-to-School and Friendships

Back to School and Friendships (text) with image of kids running into school

It’s back-to-school time, and that means back to friendships too. Making and maintaining friendships can be challenging at times for kids. Given the wide range of social skills in a single classroom, it’s no wonder that friendship struggles unfold.

For many kids, the return to school and their social worlds is filled with unknownsWill their friends still be friends? Who will return to school? What will be the same and what will be different?

Every school year tends to be filled with social ups and downs. School is a prime training ground for developing social-emotional skills, so mistakes are common. As kids return to classrooms, they are likely to experience friendship changes. And that’s okay.

If the pandemic taught us anything, it’s how to be flexible, resilient, and open to change. These skills will support kids as they transition back to school too.

The following friendship truths from BFF or NRF (Not Really Friends), help kids navigate social their social worlds.

Three Friendship Truths for Back-to-School

Truth #1: Friendships change over time

Friendship changes can be difficult and confusing for kids, but it’s common in elementary and middle school (and throughout life). Being placed in different classes, changing interests, personalities, and group dynamics prompt friendship changes throughout childhood. Understanding that change is normal may not make it easier or less painful, but it helps a little.

Truth #2: Everyone develops friendship skills at a different pace, so misunderstandings and mistakes happen

Friendship requires many skills, like communication, flexibility, respect, and honesty. Because kids are developing these skills at different rates, conflict, and mistakes are common. A friendship might not be right for them now, but remind them to give others room to grow and change.

Truth #3: “Close friendships” can be hard to find

Most kids have a range of kids that fall into the “friend” category, including classmates, neighbors, teammates, etc.  For some kids, “close friends” are harder to find. In fact, many kids may not have a “close friend” until middle school or later. This can be a relief to kids that feel like everyone has a best friend except them. All kids need to have friends, but close friendships may not happen for some kids until later.

Recognizing these friendship truths does not mean kids will avoid social discomfort, hurt feelings, or regret. But, these truths help kids learn to be gentle with themselves and others. They encourage kids to stay open to learning and growing. 

teacher asking a question to the class
Photo by Max Fischer on

Supporting Kids as They Head to School

Through listening and encouragement, parents play an essential role in helping kids process their emotions, feel heard, loved, and accepted as they navigate inevitable struggles along the way. If your child continues to experience isolation and loneliness, be sure to seek support from a school counselor or other professional. 

Heading back to school and friendships will be filled with change for all of us. It’s a unique opportunity to start fresh, grounded in our shared humanity. But most of all, it’s time to enjoy some much-needed time with friends.

About Jessica Speer: 

Jessica Speer is the author of books for kids and teens, including The Phone Book – Stay Safe, Be Smart, and Make the World Better with the Powerful Device in Your Hand. She is also the author of the award-winning, BFF or NRF (Not Really Friends)? A Girls Guide to Happy Friendships and Middle School – Safety Goggles Advised, both of which grew out of her work with kids. Blending social science, stories, and fun activities, her writing unpacks tricky stuff that surfaces during childhood and adolescence. She has a Master’s Degree in Social Sciences and a knack for writing about complex topics in ways that connect with kids. For more information, visit

Published by Jessica Speer, Author

Author and Advocate for Kids and Families

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