S.A.F.E.™ (Support And Family Education) is a resource program established in 1980 to bring programs, education, coaching and counseling to schools and families. SAFEline addresses family life and relationship issues and the SAFEline column is a compilation of many letters and calls to the SAFEline Coach.

We are new to this area and our pre-teen daughter is having a tough time making friends. She said the “kids are different” and she expresses some anxiety about approaching them. As the school year has just begun, she is concerned that she will not be accepted into a group. What do we do to help her feel more comfortable to make new friends from different cultures?

We live in a diverse community among people from different races and cultures. Your daughter is meeting kids who are culturally different and this is a new experience for her.

Many people have anxiety about being in new situations. It is important to acknowledge how your daughter is feeling and appreciate her difficulty in making new friends. That is the first step.

As a pre-teen, your daughter is now building her own sense of identity, and she is not relating to the other kids in her new environment. She is anxious over her own feelings of inadequacy and may be concerned about being rejected. She is especially vulnerable to peer pressure at this time.

Children this age form cliques, making it difficult for a “newcomer” to join in. Her defense may be what she is telling you, “they are different” and “I don’t fit in.” We tend to stay away from people who seem different than us and who do not share our same beliefs. We hesitate to get to know them or understand their culture.

Your role as a parent is to help your child build her self-confidence and self-worth by supporting her, and helping her to learn the skills to deal with new challenges. For your daughter to appreciate others, she has to feel proud of her own heritage and recognize what she has in common with others.

You are also new to the neighborhood and the community so you are in the same situation as your child. You can model how to make new friends and bring people from different cultures into your home. Begin by participating in activities with other families and developing new family interests. When you broaden your family’s experiences, you are helping your child learn about our diverse community.

Suggest your daughter go to her school counselor and identify various activities that are offered at her school. Find out how she can pair up with another student who can be a mentor or her school buddy.

Culture is very important to children and provides them with a piece of their identity. We are all hurt by prejudice and misunderstanding, and we need to pull together to eliminate it by befriending and connecting with people from other cultures.

SAFEline Coach is Helene Pine, PhD., Licensed Marriage, Family Therapist. Dr. Pine is a Family-Life Educator, Coach and Therapist and a Certified Family Wellness Instructor. For consultations regarding your family life and relationship issues, CALL SAFEline Coach at 760/360-5400 or send your questions to [email protected]

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