Does your child struggle to make friends? Sure, they can hold their own in a conversation, but they’re not really someone who seeks out other kids to talk to, and they’re definitely not a ‘social butterfly’. Of course, they don’t have to be! But right now you’re getting a little concerned over the way they interact with the world because you want them to be able to face it with confidence and a friend or two by their side.
After all, making friends is a big part of life, and knowing how to do so is an essential skill to develop as you grow. We all need to have people who love and accept and understand us in our lives, and making friends at a young age teaches you the necessary social skills, such as empathy and confidence, to carry you through other phases in life with little social difficulty.
But what do you need to do now? How can you help your child to seek out friendly relationships with other kids? It doesn’t have to be a complicated process.
The first thing to do is understand why
Maybe your child just seems to prefer their own company? Or maybe they’ve made quite a few friends but seem to fall out with all of them? Either way, you’re worried about their social skills, and how you can encourage them to seek out friendly relationships with their peers. Most of all, you don’t ever want them to feel left out or lonely. You might know just how damaging these emotions can be, and you don’t want your child to feel them as they grow and develop.
So be sure to spend some time with your child when they’re around others. Maybe take a day at preschool with them, or invite a friend and their child around, and watch the way your child interacts with other kids their age. What do you notice? Are they louder or quieter than usual, such as when they’re at home with you? Do they even ignore attempts at other kids to include them?
No matter what you see during these moments, you can then use the evidence to fuel the way you encourage your child later on. You know the kind of help your child needs, and you know what you’re dealing with now!
Lead by example,
Kids copy what they see around them; you probably hate your child watching cartoons that depict characters being naughty because then your little one starts acting in a similar way! And that’s because kids like to emulate behaviours, because it’s been 'modeled’ for them, and anyone under the age of 15/16 will be looking for these answers from the world around them.
And with all of this in mind, you might want to lead by example here. Invite a friend over, or head out to a book club or pottery class once a week. Your child will take notice of how social you are, and they might want to either come along with you or start to display the same behaviour in the classroom and on the playground.
Set up a Playdate
As mentioned above, inviting another child of a similar age around can really help your child to meet their peers on a one to one level, in a comfortable and familiar environment. They’re in their own home and have their own toys to play with, and that can help to foster confidence. After all, your child knows where everything is, they know what the rules are, and they know you’re nearby.
A few play dates here and there can make a big difference in the way your child makes friends. It can really help them to step outside of themselves, and learn to use their voice if they’re someone who gets anxious when they’re in a crowded place like a preschool or a classroom. And every kid loves it when a friend comes round after school! It’s fun, there’s a sense of freedom, and the kids can hang out as long as they want.
Talk to your child
It’s the simplest answer to this problem, and yet it’s one of the hardest ones on this list to accomplish! Talking to your little one about why they don’t like to talk to other kids, or even just asking them if they’ve made any new friends, can be met with grunts, shrugs, tears, and total silence.
And this can lead you to believe that something bad is going on. You can start to think that maybe your child is being bullied or has been picked on, and that’s certainly something to consider. But it’s not always the case.
Maybe your child is just a bit shy and requires encouragement, or maybe they’ve had a bad experience in the past and need a bit of one to one attention to help them get over it. Either way, talking to them in a calm manner on their level, can get them to open up and feel like you’re on their side. Why not tell them about your own experiences at their age? Above all else, make sure they know that other kids would love to be friends with them!