7 practical ways to help your child make friends
Your child comes home from school one day and says she doesn’t have any friends and that she is being ignored; the words no parent looks forward to or wants to hear. You have been there; you know how painful and unpleasant it can be on the playground, in the cafeteria, in classes. You want to protect your girl from being hurt or feeling lonely and most of all, you want to ensure that she has plenty of friends, and that she is enjoying her time at school. As much as you would like to step in, you simply cannot make friends for her. What you can do; is give her the tools and provide the opportunities she needs to be able to make and keep friends. Every person is born with a desire to be attached or be in a relationship, how she forms these relationships depends on her nature; some kids are naturally extroverts and have no issues in making friends, others are naturally introverts and have a harder time fitting in groups and have trouble making friends. If your child struggles to engage and connect with other kids, it can be a blow to his self-esteem or leave him feeling alone and frustrated. As parents, we usually assume that the problem lies on the other side (other kids) forgetting that it could be that our child doesn’t have the key skills to make friends.
To be more aware of your child’s friendship skills, ask yourself the following:
- Can my child initiate a conversation and think of appropriate topics to chat about with others?
- Does my child understand social situations and know when to start or stop talking based on the situation she is in?
- Does my child interact positively and is able to join a conversation without disturbing or calling negative attention to herself?
- Does my child listen to others and maintain focus and follow what someone else is saying from beginning to end?
- Does my child understand the facial expressions of others and interpret facial cues?
If you answered “No” to any of the above questions, follow the below practical strategies:
- Clearly explain what good friends do; for example: good friends are reliable, share ideas, respect each other's differences, stand up for each other, care for each other's safety and wellbeing, spend time together, help when a friend is sad or has a problem and remember important events such as birthdays and accomplishments and most importantly, they have fun with one another.
- Model what being a good friend looks like; this is one of the greatest ways to teach kids about being a good friend. Talk to your child about your friends in positive ways, spend good time with your friends and find opportunities to help them, talk nicely about them when they are not there. Think about the characteristics you value in good friends and consistently demonstrate them yourself. Remember, your children are always watching your every move.
- Read books and watch movies about friendship; this gives an opportunity to your child to learn the social skills from their favorite characters.
- Roleplay tough friendship situations and lead by example; write your own scenarios or collect ideas from situations in your child’s real life and make it a game.
- Show your child how a conversation starts small and branches out by using a script. Start simple (ex: name and grade) then expand (hobbies, school subjects, birthdays) Practice by role-playing.
- Teach your child the importance of body language; keeping eye contact, respecting personal space, nodding when others are speaking, speaking loud enough for them to hear, standing up or sitting down straight & keeping your chin up, using proper facial expression, not fidgeting and listening to what they say and asking questions.
- Teach your child that she doesn’t need to make friends with everyone and that not everyone is going to be her friend. Teach her to pick her friends based on similar values, interests, hobbies, etc.
Good friends enrich and enhance our lives, boost our self-esteem, and provide support. Developmentally speaking, making a friend in school is just as important as getting high grades. Learning how to form successful friendship relations is a critical skill for kids and one that they will be using all their lives. In fact, the American Academy of Paediatrics states, “making friends is one of the most important missions of middle childhood -- a social skill that will endure throughout their lives." Remember to stay balanced when things go hard; do not share your own fears about friendship, nor project your anxiety to your child. Allow your child to pick the type of social interaction that works best for her. If she loves group situations, perfect! If groups make her feel uncomfortable, see if she does better playing with one or two children at a time. All children will experience some sort of social pain in their friendships. This is how they grow into confident adults!
For more info please contact I Can Self Development for Kids.