How can you help your child make friends?
As much as we would like to, we can’t make friends for our children. For some children, learning how to build bonds and solidify firm friendships can be challenging, especially when they are very young. Here are some top tips for you to help your child to make better friends faster, and without all the tears.
Be a great role model
Children learn by example, so being a great friend and exhibiting excellent social skills is a great way to set them up for success. Let them see how you make time for your own friends, and how you will go the extra mile to help a friend in need. Talk about your own friendships in a positive manner, and consistently demonstrate the sort of friend you hope your child grows up to be.
Use films and story books to demonstrate awesome friendships
Movies and books are amazing at making connections and teaching children without them realising it’s all about them. Popular films like ‘Madagascar‘, ‘Toy Story‘ and ‘Shrek‘ offer great examples of how to work together as friends, and how dynamic relationships can be. ‘Charlotte’s Web‘ and ‘Harry Potter‘ demonstrate amazing stories of friendship for older readers, whereas younger readers will get a lot out of ‘Frog and Toad‘ by Arnold Lobel and ‘George and Martha‘ by James Marshall.
Help them understand themselves
Children’s personalities are as unique and variable as they are themselves, and getting to groups with their own personal preferences in terms of social interaction can be highly beneficial when it comes to making friends. Teach them to recognise whether they prefer being in a large group or are happier one on one. Understand that some kids might want to be outside kicking a ball with a group, whereas others will be happier indoors with a puzzle or colouring book. Don’t pressure them to be something they’re not. Show them it’s OK to prefer different friendship styles, and that they don’t always have to join in if it’s not something they enjoy doing.
Give them some ammunition
Often, the hardest part of making friends is simply breaking the initial ice. Practice asking “what’s your name?” and “would you like to play?” to ready them for the playground, and if you’re abroad, learning these simple phrases in the local language can really help too. Equip them with some open ended questions such as, “What is your favourite sport?”, “Do you like Minecraft?”, “Are you playing Pokémon Go here?” so they can keep the conversation going once they’ve got over the initial “Hi”.
Help them develop a social circle
Get to know the parents of people they go to school or other activities with, as well as those living in your local area. Invite their peers on ‘play dates’ at your home, so they can get to know individual children better in a more one on one situation. Encourage them to join other clubs and groups, for sport, music and dance, to extend their social circle beyond the confines of school and neighbourhood.
Don’t make it a big deal
One of the most important tips to keep in mind is that the last thing your kid needs when trying to make friends is added pressure from you. No matter how confident they are at home, they are highly likely to be more introverted and shy when it comes to making new friends. Don’t make a big fuss about it, and avoid nagging about making friends. In time, they’ll find their place amongst their peers, so relax and let them live happily, however they might choose to do so.
Moving schools, towns or even countries away can be hard on all of us, and especially on younger kids who are still figuring out the dynamics of making and keeping friends. Support them as best you can, and try not to worry, because they’ll all find someone in the end.
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