How Can I Help My Child Make Friends?
I’m certain many parents have felt the heartache of witnessing their child feeling socially left out. In their infancy we’re able to protect our babies from much of the harm in this world. Yet, inevitable there comes a day when they face social interactions that we cannot control. No matter how well intentioned our guidance has been, it doesn’t always go well for our children.
A child that hasn’t yet made friends can feel sadly distant, lonely and separated from their peer group. Oftentimes it will result in a ‘different’ child than we know. They may be depressed or moody when they are at home and have a lack of interest in or even a dread of school.
As parents we don’t need to feel completely helpless! There are very positive and tangible ways that we can help our children to cultivate friendships and help them to develop socially. With our love and encouragement (and a little practical help) we can guide our children and teach the lifelong skills they will need to thrive socially and develop meaningful and healthy relationships.
One of the most valuable things we can teach our children is exactly what a good friend is, and how to be one!
Children should learn from us early what friendship really means. For example – we can discuss with them about how hurtful gossip can be. Or how a kind word and a smile can bridge oceans between people. By highlighting positive actions we show our children that they have value. For example, compliment your child for letting someone stand in front of them in line or tell them how kind it was that a child at school mentioned that they liked your child’s new sneakers. As humans we can tend to alienate ourselves – but by focusing on the positive things that occur in our day we can find that we’re not as alone as we sometimes feel.
Lead by example. Show your child what being a good friend means. Help them to take part in your own kind actions. If you have a friend or relative that is going through hard times, let your child help you choose a card for them or bake them some cookies. Try to pay a compliment or share a joke with perfect strangers when your child is with you so that they learn how to make conversation and interact.
Friendships are such an integral part of your child building self esteem – which makes it so very important for them to have positive social experiences. Learning how to make friends and how to be a good friend will be something that helps them throughout their lifetime.
Here are some tips for you to keep in mind that can help your child to make friends:
- Remind him or her that other children may also be shy and that someone has to take the first step to make a friendship. Each morning before school you can give them a little advice to start the day with – hand them two smiles – one for themselves, and one to give away. Encouraging your child to find one nice thing to say to someone that day is another way to teach them how to reach out to people. It can be something very simple, like telling them they did a good job in gym class, or that they like their picture in art class.
- Ask your child to stop and consider what it is that they like to do. Your child will feel confident in an environment where they are doing something that they love. This is an ideal setting for them to reach out and make friends so try to find ways to involve them in these activities in group settings. If they can think of someone in their class that has the same interest, arrange a play date where they will be doing that activity.
- Listen to your child. If your child mentions somebody from their classroom, ask them if they would like to have that child over to play. If your child is shy, they may hesitate to express their inner desires to foster relationships. You can help them by initiating the conversation and contacting the other child’s parent.
- Keep play dates short and sweet. An hour or two is plenty of time for a successful play date.
- Make sure that there are some planned activities as a basis for the playdate – for example you can plan a walk in the woods or a trip to the playground.
- Get involved with the kids. Rather than just leaving them on their own, try interacting a bit. Maybe they can help you make a batch of cookies, or you can read some stories to them. Break out an art project and help them get started. Once you see them interacting, step back and let their relationship unfold.
It’s a good idea to talk your child’s teachers about your concerns. They may have some excellent suggestions, or be able to help in ways you haven’t thought about. For children who really need help learning how to socialize, you might speak with your school counselor. They may be willing to arrange play groups during school to provide your child with some supervised time to interact with other children.
Social skills take a lifetime to refine. Be patient and encouraging, but don’t be too concerned if your child’s social life doesn’t explode right away.
P.S. Would you like MORE information on this topic to help your child make friends? Check out “From Awkward Solitude to Blessed Friendship“