Does your child struggle with friendship? Making and keeping friends doesn’t always come naturally for kids. Your children need to learn the social skills of friendship just like they learn other skills. And friends are extremely important.
Friendships play a vital role in a child’s development, offering them support, companionship, and valuable life lessons. You can cultivate these skills in children, empowering them to make friendships that may last a lifetime. Let’s explore some strategies to help your child in make friends, get along with others, and keep lasting friendships.
Encouraging children to make friends is often an overwhelming task. Your child may resist your help or completely shut down. Here are some effective strategies to help overcome their resistance:
Lead by example: Children learn from observing their role models. Display warmth, kindness, and inclusivity in your own interactions to demonstrate how to make friends. Share with them how you made friends. Talk about how much you appreciate your friends. Give examples of the fun times you have together.
Teach empathy: Help children understand and recognize the emotions of others. Show your child how to consider the perspectives and feelings of their peers. Role-play scenarios that require empathetic responses. Allow them to practice understanding others’ needs. Be sure to praise their efforts and recognize when they put these skills into practice.
Discover shared interests: Support children in exploring their passions and hobbies. Activities they enjoy can lead to shared experiences and common ground with new friends. Ask them what their friends like to do. Encourage participation in group activities, clubs, or sports where they can meet like-minded peers.
Foster good communication skills: Teach children the importance of effective communication. Teach them how to actively listen, speak clearly, and express thoughts and feelings assertively. Role-playing various social situations can help them develop these skills.
Getting Along With Others
Once your child has started making friends, it’s important for them to understand how to get along with them, how to be a “good” friend. Friendships are the primary ways your child learns to build social skills. Many children need direction and advice. Here are some strategies to support children in developing this essential skill:
Teach conflict resolution: Conflict is inevitable in any relationship. Teach your child constructive ways to manage disagreements, such as compromise, active listening, and seeking win-win solutions. Model expressing your feelings and encourage them to express their feelings calmly and to advocate for themselves while respecting others’ perspectives.
Practice emotional regulation: Help your child understand their emotions and provide tools to manage them effectively. Teach them deep breathing exercises, taking breaks when overwhelmed, and using “I feel” statements to express emotions in a healthy way.
Promote teamwork and collaboration: Engage children in cooperative activities that require teamwork. Working together, listening to others’ ideas, and value everyone’s contributions. Highlight the importance of respecting diverse opinions and perspectives.
Demonstrate kindness and inclusivity: Foster a culture of kindness, where children are encouraged to include and befriend those who may feel left out. Teach them to stand up against bullying and support peers who may be struggling.
Building friendships is not enough; helping children maintain lasting friends is equally crucial. Consider the following strategies:
Nurture understanding: Teach children to be supportive and understanding of their friends. Show them how to actively listen, be available during challenging times, and celebrate their friends’ achievements. Remind them of times when you have done this with your friends.
Promote regular interaction: Encourage children to spend time with their friends outside of school or organized activities. Make your home a welcome place for them to bring their friends. Help your child be thoughtful by purchasing snacks their friends enjoy and playing games that others like.
Model open communication: Teach children the importance of open and honest communication in friendships. Help them to express their needs, concerns, and boundaries while respecting those of their friends.
Provide guidance on social media usage: In today’s digital age, guide your child on the responsible use of social media platforms. Teach them about online safety, the impact of online behavior on friendships, and the importance of balancing virtual and in-person interactions. Remember, they are watching you, so check your own habits too.
Helping children develop social skills and build friendships is a valuable investment in their future. By teaching them empathy, communication, conflict resolution, and inclusivity, you empower them to make and keep friends. By providing guidance and support, you pave the way for a lifetime of meaningful connections. Remember, every child has the potential to be a caring friend and a positive influence on those around them.
The Key To Making and Keeping Friends
By Lisa Reichelt, M. Ed., Parent Coach