How to help your bright child find friends who share their interests
“How do I find a group of friends ‘like’ my child, to do ‘their’ kind of ‘fun’ activities i.e. play chess, science projects, history buff, etc.” — Joan McGregor, member, CTY Parents Facebook Group
First, know that your child is not alone. Making friends isn’t easy for many children, and for academically advanced kids it can be complicated by the fact that your child’s same-age peers may not share their more academic or unique interests, says Michelle Muratori, a senior counselor at the Johns Hopkins Center for Talented Youth.
Here’s her advice:
Start with their interests
“Always start with your child’s interest area,” Muratori says. School may be a good place to start, but you might have to broaden your search. If your child is interested in theater, find out if there’s a local theater company where they can volunteer. A history buff might find others who share their interests at a museum or historical society. Understand that your child might meet adults as well as children with similar interests in the community and while it’s normal to have friends of varying ages, parents will need to monitor these relationships.
Make new friends and keep the old
Encourage your child to maintain friendships they formed at camp or school, whether it’s through social media and text or in person, through safe, socially distanced activities. “In the world it’s important to have friends of different backgrounds, abilities, and interests,” Muratori says. “So many things can fizzle out when you get busy, but maintaining friendships is important.”
One, two, three, go
Academic competitions can provide kids with common interests the social opportunity to get together. “Team-based competitions encourage social development as students explore their interests,” Muratori says. Find academic competitions in art and writing, history, math, science and more on CTY’s web site.
Create what you can’t find
Sometimes you need to be creative. If your child can’t find a means to connect with others who share their interests, consider creating one. Muratori says. “One of my former students created a math circle in in 6th grade that’s still going, years after they graduated high school,” she said.
Be open minded
Encourage your child to recognize that different sets of friends can fulfill different needs. Your child’s gaming friends might not have much in common with their history friends, but that’s okay, Muratori says. “Everyone brings something to the table.”