Research by Disney Junior’s Vampirina has revealed that over two thirds (69 per cent) of parents and guardians are feeling anxious about their child starting school. The top five concerns were listed as: “settling in” (71 per cent), “making friends” (69 per cent), “going to the toilet” (28 per cent), “misbehaving” (20 per cent) and “liking their teacher” (20 per cent).

Parents, children, experts and Disney Junior have come together to create “How to Make Friends and Influence… Five-Year-Olds”, a guide on how to make friends after research revealed “making friends” was a top concern for parents and guardians when it comes to their child starting school.

When quizzed on the skills they felt children needed to make friends, 70 per cent of parents felt that “confidence” was a key quality, followed by “having shared interests” (53 per cent), “a smiling face” (52 per cent), “being chatty” (45 per cent) and “having empathy” (44 per cent).

The research also revealed that it is not just the children that parents and guardians worry about with 55 per cent saying they are anxious about making new friends amongst fellow adults. Well over half of adults (60 per cent) admit they lost friends as they got older, and just over one in three (36 per cent) confessed they wish it was still as easy to make friends as an adult than as it was a child.

Linda Blair, parenting expert and psychologist, commented:

“To make friends children must be able to consider life from other people’s points of view so they can appreciate and react to what others want to do and enjoy. Although young children show they’re capable of appreciating other viewpoints, they don’t normally apply this skill until they’re about five years old. This is why it’s important to start introducing them to this skill at a young age. Once they can understand empathy it will feel like second nature to them to behave in those adaptive ways. Together with Disney Junior, we have developed tips on how you can empower your child and help them develop empathy to increase their ability to make friends.”

Linda Blair added:
“It’s natural for the whole family to feel nervous on your child’s first day at school—and remember, other parents will be feeling nervous as well. You can help create a welcoming atmosphere by offering a genuine compliment to another parent about their child’s behaviour and/or appearance.”

Linda Blair’s Top Tips for children and adults to help them make and keep friends on their first day at school.

How to make friends – Top Tips for Kids

1. How can I help? If you think another child isn’t sure about whether to join in with what you’re doing, invite them to do something with you. Everyone likes to feel included.
2. Sharing is caring. When you’re with your new classmates, offer to share your toys and playground equipment, so you can all play together.
3. Take turns. At break time, make sure everyone you’re with gets to have a turn at whatever you’re all doing. They’ll like you for being kind.
4. Let’s pretend. Knowing how other people are feeling will help you understand what makes other people happy. If your school has a drama club, join it, and ask to be in the school play, too, so you can learn different ways of feeling and behaving. At home, ask your family to play ‘let’s pretend’ games with you.
5. Caring isn’t just about people. A good way to practice helping others feel better after school is to help care for your pets. And guess what? Your pets will love you specially because of what you do!

How to make friends – Top Tips for Parents and Guardians

1. Do as I do. During the early years, parents are the child’s best role models. Be sure you show how to make friends by setting a good example, e.g. giving the people around you your full attention – listen fully whenever your child, your partner or other key people around you want to tell you something. Show you’re concerned about how other people are feeling and thank others when they do things you appreciate.
2. Read / watch stories about sharing and making friends and talk about them afterwards. Start reading / watching these stories as early as possible – even before you think your child can understand them! Whenever you see an opportunity ask your child how a character could be feeling—and ask how they know. Disney Junior’s TV show Vampirinia has some fantastic episodes exploring friendship, what it takes to be a good friend, issues they may come across and how to tackle them.
3. Make a head start. Before your child starts a new school year, find out if you can who else will be in their class. Then invite one of those children over to play with your child during the summer holidays. That way, once school starts, your child already has a friend from the start of term. This in turn will reduce their anxiety when they go into class on that first day.

David Levine, General Manager, Disney Channels UK & Ireland comments:
“Disney Junior’s Vampirina is a show about making new friends so we’re delighted to lend our characters to help both children and parents settle into school in what is an exciting, but often anxious time, for all involved. It’s fantastic that TV shows such as Vampirina can spark conversations around everyday problems that ordinarily may be difficult for parents and children, and in turn offer support by showing solutions.”

The How to Make Friends and Influence Five-Year-Olds” video guide is inspired by Vampirina, a show about a young vampire called Vee whose family moves to a new town and is faced with the challenge of making new friends, and includes wisdom and advice straight from the mouths of children, including saying hello, giving people your best smile, asking your new classmates questions about themselves, listening rather than just talking, joining in and taking turns, being kind and sharing things like your lunch. It aims to spark conversations between parents, guardians and children that ordinarily may be hard, and provide simple and practical advice.

The “How to Make Friends and Influence Five-Year-Olds” video guide can be viewed here: