Did it ever happen to you to see your young kid with a red face swollen from crying who says “Dave (or whatever the name is) doesn’t want to be my friend anymore?“ A lot of parents would simply shrug the issue aside and tell their child it's okay--that they can make new friends. And it's true, of course. Most parents wouldn't want to believe the problem is with their child's behavior (and we don't mean that in a negative way).
Maybe your child is shy or maybe she has some habits which may appear as peculiar to other children, which is why she is not able to make friends as easily as other children. The thing you need to keep in mind is, even experts agree that friendships are important at a young age, especially because they are beneficial for a child's emotional well-being.
If you would like to know how your shy or socially awkward child can make more and more friends, don't worry! This article aims at guiding you to do just that.
15 First Off, Take It Easy
A child isn’t likely to approach another unfamiliar child at the playground and ask to play together, claims child psychologist Donna Witter, Ph.D., the author of Focusing on Peers: The Importance of Relationships in the Early Years. Children dislike seeing too many unfamiliar faces at once and they aren’t likely to interact. So, we should make sure not to invite a bunch of kids to a house party.
Because what's going to happen when you do that, trying to ignore the advice of professionals? Well, in all likelihood, your child is going to feel overwhelmed by the sheer presence of so many kids, and she might simply withdraw instead of mingling. More is not always merrier. Experts say a kid feels more comfortable around one or two friends he or she regularly sees and is also more likely to play and share toys with them.
14 Why So Shy?
Shyness is what makes it harder for some children to make friends, regardless of their age. To help a child overcome this issue, we should encourage them to address and meet new people, as well as to say hello to the ones they already know. Home parties can by no means hurt if a shy child feels more comfortable in familiar surroundings. We should pick home activities including more participation, so in time the child will start a conversation freely as well.
And be careful not to push a shy child into activities such as loud and crazy parties. You know what's going to happen? In all probability, they will have a panic attack and they'll be scarred for life. If your child's still a toddler and they are exposed to a similar environment, they'd be scared as hell and will associate gatherings of people with negative emotions.
13 Vote For Volunteering
Volunteering is beneficial as it gives a chance to discover and develop one’s skills, as well as to enjoy and serve the society at the same time. Besides, people are supposed to work on something together, so they develop social skills and learn about being tolerant. If you have a young child, there aren't many volunteering options for them.
Think of some by yourself, like making friends with a senior citizen in your neighborhood, or encourage your child to draw and then use those drawings as gift wrapping papers!
If your child is a little older and is keen on traveling, why don’t you try suggesting them to apply for a voluntary camp? As there are many camps for children out there, your child will be surrounded with people approximately their age. When they are supposed to cooperate, it is likely they will make friends and keep in touch after the camp is over.
12 Don’t Tower Their Game
Whether a child is a toddler, tween, or a teenager, we shouldn’t bother them when they are around their friends. When toddlers are at stake, it’s normal if two buddies are just sitting next to each other, minding their own business and checking on each other from time to time. And really, what is there for you to be afraid of? It's not like they'll get into a gunfight the minute you turn your back to them!
According to Dr. Donna Wittmer, children’s relationships normally involve from parallel play into parallel-aware play. So, their social activities will develop from smiling to their friends and imitating the way they play into discussing serious matters with friends when they get older. And how open or comfortable do you think children are with their friends when their parents are hovering all around them? Not much!
11 Encourage Them to Begin From Themselves
It’s been said many times that we can’t work on our social relationships if we haven’t worked on ourselves first. What is meant by this is you should encourage your children to discover what they are interested in and talented for. You'd be surprised to know how much "adult" advice can easily be used for children as well!
Developing their skills and gaining more knowledge about topics they find interesting will help them become potentially interesting partners in a conversation, irrespective of their age group.
And having a conversation with someone who happens to like the same things as us is often the first step into a new friendship. So, go ahead and explore your child's talent or interests.
Maybe your baby shows a lot of inclination towards musical instruments, or simply likes to scribble her time away on any piece of paper she can find. Taking the second example, you can have a "draw date" for your child where she and her friend can spend their time happily drawing away whatever it is they love to draw.
10 That’s Mine!
As already explained, early friendships are a great way for a child to acquire precious qualities and abilities we tend to forget about in older age, such as empathy or generosity. And one thing most children are guilty of (especially an only child) is being super possessive of their, well, possessions. It's natural for them to be protective but they need to be taught this is not a good thing to do.
You also need to teach your children they mustn’t take their friend’s toy away. In this way, you will make them learn about one of the basic rules of the society: do not violate anyone’s right to property! It might seem trivial but the child who learned not to steal toys is less likely to steal money someday. Besides, according to child psychologists Dr. Gross and Dr. Theise, friendships can be the way to overcome shyness and develop creativity.
9 Be an Example Yourself
It’s common knowledge that children tend to take after their parents and their behavior. So, if you thought your child isn't smart enough to notice what you're doing and how you're behaving with others, you couldn't be more wrong.
Go ahead and make yourself an example of how to build a healthy social relationship. Make sure you get your partner involved in this as well. And if you live with in-laws or flatmates, they need to be told to behave properly around your child, especially when in the company of their friends.
Pay attention to how you treat people when your children are around. If they notice you’re being polite and reliable, they will acquire those qualities and apply them when they are among their peers.
It's a slow process, sure. But it's worth the effort. This will ensure that other children feel comfortable around your child and they will be more likely to make friends with them.
8 You're a Friend in Need
A lot of parents want to be the best friend of their children but they don't know where to begin. Don't worry, that self-doubt is very common. You can begin with practicing friendly behavior with your child.
Make sure to keep your promises and be the person they can trust. Also, stay open for conversation and show empathy when your child is having a hard time. Make sure you regularly participate with them in some sort of activity or the other.
If these activities can happen outside your home, that's even better because that way, your child will be forced to leave their comfort zone (their home), visit a new environment, and get the chance to interact with new people. If they learn they can trust you as their parent, so will they be able to trust another person who they’ll refer to as their friend someday. And trust is the inevitable foundation of all meaningful relationships.
7 Rewards Make the World Go Around
In addition to serving as a live example, giving rewards is a proven tactic when raising children. This is an exceptionally powerful method when dealing with toddlers. If used correctly, it can be useful when developing social skills and making friends.
For those who are not aware, this method, also known as positive reinforcement, involves rewarding your child for every good deed they do. When you notice your child is appearing friendly towards another person by either sharing, helping, or just listening to them, reward them at least with a smile or a compliment.
Compliments are the fuel that pushes people forward. If your child is too young to understand the importance of a compliment, go ahead and reward them with their favorite drawing book.
6 Pick the Right Activity
Make sure to pay attention to the age of your child and their affinities when introducing an activity to them. Your assumption or worse, pushing on gender conformity to your young children can backfire miserably.
Imagine this: you suggested this to your 10-year-old boy, “Why don’t you ask your friend to come over? You can stack blocks or play with these puzzles together!” Nothing wrong with it, of course, but what if he's the more open minded child who prefers having a slumber party with his friends? Unusual, sure. But if that makes him happy, go ahead.
Don't force your child to do things your way or how it's "done". No. If you want your child to socialize, you have to do whatever it is they're most comfortable or happy with, and then you have to just roll with it!
5 You’re Not Alone!
Asking someone for help is not a shame, whatever issue is at stake. If you are finding it hard to help your child make friends, and you think you've done everything you could have as a parent, feel free to search for ideas and assistance in your child’s surroundings.
School is the best example. And teachers should never be underestimated as great assistants in helping your child make friends. They observe children daily and know a lot about their personality, especially aspects of it about which you may not be very familiar. Coordinate things with the class teacher.
For example, if some social activities are taking place at school, a teacher could pair your child with the one who is communicative and polite and thus encourage them to socialize. Of course, if the help of teachers isn't making any difference, maybe it's time to seek professional help.
4 Take the Game Outdoors
Organizing play dates at home, or encouraging your child to take part in social activities at school are definitely beneficial for making friendships. But, if you and your child are up for a more interactive and adventurous activity that includes playing outdoors, here’s a suggestion for you.
It might sound silly but the recently introduced game Pokémon Go might be the perfect way to bond with your child as well as to help them make friends by inviting their peers to join the game. The children will instantly become mesmerized, and since they are on the mission of catching Pokémon together, they will form strong bonds that lead to a friendship.
If you don't believe us, go ahead and check out the craze this app has created. People of all age groups--from 6 to 60--have admitted to being hooked on this game and in the process, made new friends!
3 Team Sports Build Friendships
Alright, so this one's not exactly for diaper wearing children, but it's definitely a worthy tip because it's going to help you in the future when your child's all grown up. Many of us will agree that we made our first friendships through playing sports or taking up an activity such as going to a ballet school.
Team sports are one of the best ways for people to connect, as they are supposed to cooperate and interact with each other in order to reach the same goal. Having this in mind, encouraging your child to enroll in some sports club will give them a chance to meet new people and, as they are interested in the same thing, to make friends.
But what if your child doesn't like sports? Well, you need not worry. In such cases, you can easily find out what your child's interests are and then enroll them in the respective classes (guitar, cello, art) or help them find or create co-curricular activity groups in their school or neighborhood.
2 No Off-Putting Behavior
Make sure to observe your child and his or her behavior, and feel free to ask their teachers or your relatives to do so. Every parent knows their child behaves differently at home, differently when at school, and is an entirely new person when they're in the company of friends. It's not wrong for you to keep an eye on how they're turning out to be, so there's no need for you to feel guilty over invading their "privacy".
Generally, it has been noticed if a child has a problem with making social connections, the root of it might be in their behavior. Maybe the child does something that puts others off, i.e. yells constantly, appears aggressive, etc. If you manage to track the problem down, it will be easy to solve it and tell your child how to improve their approach to other people.
1 When Your Help Is No Longer Needed
Our children have finally and successfully made it to their teenage years. It’s been a struggle to assist them as a parent, and what are we rewarded with? Eye-rolling! All of a sudden, your “little princess” has turned into a little bundle of nerves, confident and sure she doesn’t need your help anymore. As psychologists say, living with a teenager who is in the middle of the search for his or her identity is a great challenge to confront.
But, you should endure bravely through all the conflicts and remain to be that silent ally who will come to light and offer help when they ask for it themselves. Don’t worry--your teenager still needs you, especially if they had a fight with their friends!