I remember hurting for my children when they had troubles with friends. Perhaps there are some ideas here to help!
School Counsellor, School District 57
How to help your child make friends
Your child is in grade school and out to explore the world. But she is a bit of a loner and seems shy or reluctant to make friends, and this has you worried. Other kids your child’s age seem to have no trouble in the social-life department, easily making and keeping pals.
by Kate Rauch ?You can help, and it’s worthwhile. Playing with friends is an important way for young school-age children to learn social rules such as cooperating, not hurting each other’s feelings, and waiting for their turn.
Keep playdates small. Start by inviting only one or two prospective pals over to your house, preferably kids your child already knows who are around her age. Ask your child who she enjoys spending time with at school, and arrange a get-together.
Keep playdates short. One or two hours is plenty when kids are just getting to know each other. True, this might mean that the new friend will have to leave just as things are really getting fun, but this is better than having the playdate go on too long and deteriorate into squabbles, leaving a sour taste in everyone’s mouth.?
Plan ahead. Orient the playdate around games and activities that your child enjoys and is good at. This will make her more comfortable and keep her feeling good about herself. Let your child pick the activity, but make suggestions.
Get involved. Don’t just leave the kids to play by themselves and hope for the best. Your guidance can make children feel more at ease with each other, especially new friends. Oversee art or cooking projects, or suggest a game. If this seems to make your child more self-conscious, though, back off. Do make yourself available in case they run into conflicts, get distracted and stop playing together, or need a change of activity. However, try not to dominate or fill in for your child; the idea is to help break the ice without taking control. “Mom or Dad can help get things going, then hang back once the kids get into the groove.?
Get a schedule, then get going. To develop familiarity, try to arrange regular playdates with the same kids on a weekly basis. If things are going well, meet in a park or playground or at another child’s house. If the playdates go really well and your child runs off independently to play with the others, try leaving her at someone else’s house without you, first for a short time and then for longer periods.?
Be a playdate yourself. It helps to play regularly with your child. This allows you to stimulate interaction while getting to know your child’s playing style. For example, if puzzles and games requiring lots of concentration do little more than frustrate your child, it’s best not to include these activities in a playdate.?
Embrace a few fads. First through third graders are often into fads such as PokÈmon or Hello Kitty. While your child’s cultural icons may not delight you, they offer great bonding material, common ground for forming friendships. Allowing your child to play with popular toys and watch popular television shows or videos can give her a way to communicate with peers. “It helps to have something in common to talk about.”
Talk to her teacher. Visit her classroom to get a picture of how your child acts around her peers at school. Your child may seem drawn to certain classmates ó potential playdates ó and put off by others. Talk with the teacher about your concerns, and work together on school-based strategies that could help your child make friends. Also, “investigate whether your child is having a negative experience at school,” Walker says. For instance, if she is being bulliedregularly by certain children, ask the teacher to intervene.
See how others do it. Watching videos or reading books about friends and friendship can be a nonthreatening way to reinforce the positives of socializing. It can also be a starting point for talking with your child about making friends and may encourage her to open up and express her feelings.?
Have your own friends over. Since children pay close attention to what grown-ups do, model for your child by having your friends over, especially in ways that include the younger generation.?
Try not to expect too much. If your child feels she’s being forced to make friends, the best intentions can backfire. She is probably already insecure around other children, and pressure from Mom or Dad can fuel that insecurity. “Avoid overfocusing on it and getting into a battle of wills,” Walker says. “Kids will clam up and be more shy.”?
Get help if you sense a real problem. In most cases, shyness or difficulty making friends in childhood is normal. But a few red flags could indicate that something else is going on. If your child rarely holds eye contact, is unusually withdrawn, throws tantrums or cries whenever other children are around, or seems terrified of going to school or the playground, talk to your pediatrician.?
- Nobody Likes Me: Helping Children Make Friends
Its a heartbreaker. Your child comes home from school one day and says he doesn’t have any friends and that nobody likes him – the dreaded words no parent wants to hear. You’ve been there; you know how cruel it can be on the playground and how quickly friendships seem to come and go throughout life. You want to wrap up your little guy and protect him from the world and most of all, you want to ensure that he has plenty of friends.
As much as you’d like to step in, you simply can’t make friends for him. You can, however, give him the tools he needs to be social and to be a good friend. Every child is born with an innate need to attach or be in a relationship, but how he goes about forming those relationships depends largely on his temperament.
- Offer a variety of opportunities for play and socializing. Host friends over for play dates or lunch. See if you can participate in a carpool and sign-up your child for group activities such as art, drama or dance. Exposing him to different areas of play will help him learn to socialize. Giving children lots of unstructured time to play is important because they learn the social skills they need so they can keep playing and have fun, says Salin. Additionally, you can include your child when talking to people out of his normal range of peers. Take him to visit a neighbor, or bring him along to the dry cleaner. The more he is exposed to interacting with all kinds of people, the more he will learn to do the same.
- Provide support to your child. This may seem easy, but how often do you really listen to your child? Pick up on her social cues by listening to what she says happened on the playground. Support your child’s choice of friends and welcome them to your home. Try getting to know her friends and their parents.
- Stay balanced when things are hard. Go ahead and empathize with your child’s pain, but keep it in perspective. Making friends is a lifelong process and will of course have its ups and downs. Pain, unfortunately, is a part of it. According to Salin, all children will experience some form of normal social pain in their friendships. We can support them by listening and acknowledging their feelings. Talk about your concerns with other adults who can support you — such as a coach, teacher, friend, or family member. You never want to share your anxiety with your child, so find someone who can help offer insight about your child or consult with professionals.
- Perhaps most importantly, you need to show your child how to be a good friend and make friends. The best way is to model the behavior you would like to see. According to Boys Town Pediatrics, there are several ways you can accomplish this at home:
- Help your child realize his own strengths.
- Have a sense of humor about yourself and your shortcomings.
- Listen to your child without criticism.
- Be kind, give compliments, wave to a friend, open the door for someone.
- Be understanding of what others are going through by showing empathy.
- Don’t complain. Instead, teach your children to accept what can’t be changed by working hard to change the things that can.
- Learning to build friendships is one of the ways children develop into well-rounded, emotionally healthy human beings.
- Making friends…(for kids to read)
When you meet someone, you don’t know whether that person is going to become a good friend, so you have to be a bit careful at first.
Friendship is like planting a seed that you’ve found. You are not quite sure what is going to come up so you have to watch it carefully and nurture (look after) it.
What to do
Getting into the group
Try to make friends
Dr Kym says
- Handle Cliques And Navigate That Vicious Social Jungle
Does your child have a BFF? It’s a fact of childhood that many best friends forever, bonds fade, fracture, or flame out at some point. It isn’t a matter of if your child will experience the end of a close friendship; it’s a matter of when. It can be frustrating and painful to watch your child suffer. The good news: You can help her bounce back while learning some key lessons about friendship.
Try these tips to help your child recover from the loss of a friendship:
Watch for signs that a close friendship is in trouble. Invite your child to tell you what’s going on between her and her friend ñ and how she feels about it.
Acknowledge her hurt, but give her hope that she’ll make up with her friend or find a new BFF.
Don’t take your child’s pain lightly. Try to remember how you felt when you lost a friend at her age. But, in some cases, your child’s sadness may indicate problems that require professional therapy, so be aware of possible danger signs.
Talk about how to approach the problem. Figuring out relationships can be tricky. Talk to your child about the pros and cons of confronting her friend (or letting it go), and how to go about it. You might even use role-playing to help her practice what she’ll say to her friend.
Don’t rush in to rescue the friendship yourself! Doing so will rob your child of an important lesson in problem-solving.
Help your child stay busy. Engaging in her favorite activities may keep her from dwelling on her loss.
Respect her readiness (or reluctance) to move on. As much as you’d like her to pick herself up and get over her loss, respect her need to recover and spend some time alone.
Don’t play matchmaker. It’s tempting to recruit new friends who you think are perfect for your child but resist! Kids prefer to forge their own friendships.
Talk over what makes a good friend, and urge your child to reach out to new ones. As she matures, she’ll learn what qualities she values most in a close friend and what traits to avoid.
October 24: United Nations Day and World Development Information Day; International; UN
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