For some young children, making friends and learning how to be a good friend can be especially challenging. While you can’t make friends for your child, there are tips for helping your child make friends on their own.
6 Tips for Helping Your Child Make Friends
The following are a half a dozen helpful tips many parenting experts agree can help pave the way to developing satisfying social interactions
1. Set a friendly example for your child.
Kids definitely learn by watching their parents. Model social skills in your own day- to-day interactions. Talk about your friendships in positive ways, and greet people with a warm smile. Let your children see you making time for friends, offering to help those in need and being a sympathetic listener to other’s problems. Think about the characteristics you value in good friends and consistently demonstrate them yourself.
2. Help your child identify his or her friendship style.
There are almost as many styles of social peer interaction as there are types of children. Observing your child’s personality will help you work with him to identify what kind of social interaction is most comfortable for him.
Some kids love being part of large groups, while others can only handle one-on-one interactions. Participating in active outdoor activities may be tons of fun for some, while others prefer quiet indoor diversions like playing games or solving puzzles with a single friend or two. What’s important is to let your child’s temperament be the guiding force, and not what you think he should be doing.
Being involved and forcing your child are two different things. You could unknowingly limit your child if you assume he relates to friends the same way you do. Let your child show you what kind of social interactions work best for him, and don’t hesitate to back away.
3. Use stories/movies to help teach how to be a good friend.
Films are wonderful conversation starters for families whose children are shy about communicating. Many kids find it easier to discuss real-life issues through fictional stories.
For example, look at the movie The Good Dinosaur (affiliate). After you’ve watched the film together is a perfect time to ask what your child felt about Arlo’s friendship with Spot, about the difference friends could make in his own life and what he might do to make new friends.
If you aren’t familiar with Disney•Pixar’s The Good Dinosaur, it’s a heartwarming adventure about the power of friendship and discovering who you are meant to be. In this epic journey, a young apatosaurus named Arlo makes an unlikely human friend while traveling through a harsh and mysterious landscape. Arlo learns not only the value of friendship, but also how to confront his fears and discover what he is truly capable of. My boys just loved this movie (and I did, too)!
4. Teach the Basics.
Practice simple phrases that ease the way into conversations, such as “What’s your name?” or “What’s your favorite sport?” Teach your child how to join a group of kids on the playground, and tell them to allow other kids to join in.
Just as important is to help your child interpret non-verbal cues. Learning to read body language and facial expressions can prevent hurt and disappointment ahead of time, as they’ll learn to anticipate whether they can expect a positive reception from a peer or not.
5. Arrange social activities.
You can lay the groundwork for socialization by setting the stage in several ways. Get to know the parents of your child’s classmates and neighbors and open your home to friends for playdates. Encourage your child to participate in after-school activities as a way of broadening his social circle beyond the classroom.
6. Don’t Add Pressure by making a big deal out of it.
Uncertainty about making friends is a common problem for young children so don’t be too heavy handed about it. Be supportive and let your child know you’re always there to support and advise, but tread lightly. You want to help, but don’t make it a big deal. Avoid bombarding them with questions about their social lives and allow some healthy alone time. Most importantly, let children develop their own comfort level. After all, it’s their life and they should be able to live it as authentically as possible.
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