How to Help Your Child Make Friends

Exercise:
Think of a friend that you remember fondly from your childhood. What did you like about that friend? What activities did you do together? Now think of a childhood classmate that you disliked, do you remember what behaviors that child did that caused you to dislike him/her?

Childhood Friendships
Research supports the importance of childhood friendships. Even just one close friend can make a big difference in how secure a child feels at school. Friendships become more and more important as a child develops.

What children look for in friendships.

  • Does this child make me feel good about myself?
  • Is this child similar to me?
  • Is this child fun to be with? (Preschool and early grade-school children seem to care most about this)
  • Is this child trustworthy?
  • Do we influence each other in ways I like?
  • Does this child help me achieve my goals?

Some behaviors children need to know in order to have successful peer relationships

  • Joining a group or activity
  • Coping with success
  • Responding to requests
  • Dealing with conflict
  • Defending self
  • Making requests
  • Coping with failure
  • Staying involved
  • Helping others
  • Making a friend
  • Sharing/cooperating
  • Maintaining a conversation
  • Sticking up for a friend
  • Coping with rejection
  • Being supportive of others
  • Coping with teasing

Skills Every Child Should Learn

  • How to get calm when upset (“bubble or flower breaths” help)
  • How to deal with small things him/herself by using “I statements”
  • How to take turns/share
  • How to say: Can I play?, If not- say OK, maybe next time, How to find a job in a game.
  • How to give compliments
  • How to ask questions about others
  • The secret to friendship- showing someone that you like them.
  • How to brush it off when something small happens

Challenges to Friendships

  • Your child excludes another child
  • Your child feels excluded
  • Your child has friends but they are not a good fit

What Parents Can Do To Help

  • Make play dates a priority and supervise them. Keep playdates structured, short and sweet.
  • Role model for your children how to treat others respectfully.
  • Role play the skills mentioned on the previous page with your child.
  • Talk to your child about their day every day, so you can head potential problems off quickly.
  • Partner with teachers/school professionals.
  • Don’t worry too much, most children figure out friendships pretty well. Remember,learning to navigate the social world is part of growing up and there will be bumps/learning experiences along the way, and that’s ok.

Keep in Mind

There is a certain amount of interpersonal friction and drama that happens between children, but its not considered bullying unless it involves: intentional aggression, a pattern of behavior repeated over time and an imbalance of strength or power.

OTHER WAYS PARENTS CAN HELP:

  • Double Date: Have a play-date with a friend of yours who has children as a way to model social behaviors., such as sharing and turn taking. Try to include the children in a shared child-adult activity such as a game or baking cookies.
  • Don’t gossip about other adults in front of your children. Children are watching your every move in their efforts to learn how to be an adult.
  • Restrain from gossiping about other children or identifying children who you are think are good or bad, since you can model social behaviors.
  • Hold your child accountable for behavior e.g. gossiping and teasing and let your child know such behavior isn’t helpful.
  • Model play by spending time playing with your child yourself. You can also get a sense of what types of games work for your child and which ones are more difficult so you can shape play-dates with friends.
  • Watching videos or reading books about making friends together can help model skills for your child.
  • Help your child form a plan of reaching out to other children. Play dates or after-school activities and clubs can be extremely helpful.
  • Making a plan to eat/play with another child before lunch and recess can be a big help.
  • Plan play dates to have a structured activity, explain to your child what it means to be the host and set up a system (e.g. guests choose games first) so your child understands what’s important and why. Keep play dates small (one to two children) and short (one to two hours). Overseeing play-dates yourself without dominating can also be helpful. You can guide projects or resolve conflicts. Just make sure to back off if your child is feeling uncomfortable.
  • Teach your child some skills that may be helpful in reaching out to others, such as breaking the ice by saying hello, inviting someone to play on the playground or sharing toys/supplies. Maintaining contact through eye contact, nodding helps.
  • Talk to teachers/caregivers who observe your child in diverse settings so you can understand your child’s friendship habits. You can help your child break habits that may annoy others or use popularity wisely.
  • Ask your child’s teacher to help your child find a social niche by having children work together in groups. If a child is having trouble making friends, the teacher can organize the make-up of groups in a helpful way.
  • Embrace a few fads: Fads help children bond with other children
  • Most children will figure out friendship pretty well.
  • Remember that every child is different and may take time to learn certain behaviors.
  • Children who are shy are often unsure about whether others will like them.
  • Try to show shy children how likable they are, show that it is o.k. with you that they are shy and explain that shyness is not a reason to be ashamed of oneself.
  • You can explain to your child that friendships take time to form.
  • Expect some conflict to exist in friendships.
  • WDS is a warm, caring environment, trust the teachers to be aware of social issues.
  • Listen to difficulties. You don’t need to solve every problem- just listening can be the most important thing you can do.
  • Showing empathy to your child whom is having difficulties with friendships can be helpful. Remembering a time you were in a similar situation can help you develop empathy.
  • Model empathy and kindness in your interactions with others and explain to your child why such behaviors are important.
  • Help your child learn words to express his/her feelings and how to recognize and respond to other’s feelings.
  • If you sense a major problem (persistent, intense friendship issues or missing of social cues) seek professional help