How To Help My Child Make Friends

04/11/2015

Children go through many phases throughout the course of their development, and making friends is no exception. As parents learn and grow by raising their children in a modern world, occasionally they let their parental fear get the best of them. It is a natural thing to compare one person’s child to your own, to analyse, measure and study your own child’s development to other children, but it can leave many parents stressed out and fussing over every small thing.
One of the more recent experiences that has come up with some friends of mine is that they compare their child’s social-emotional development to that of other children. In other words, their child tends to shy away from other children in their general age group. Seeking outside opinions and counsel from professionals and friends alike, they have been told all the same conventional things such as, “Every child develops differently; your child will make friends one day,” to “Maybe your child is a late bloomer,” and even the old, “It is a phase and they will outgrow it.” But it is one thing to be told to calm down and another thing to actually calm down. It honestly isn’t easy for my friends (or any parent for that matter) to watch other children have gobs of friends while their own child is left out, or isolated from the group.
So in an attempt to soothe the fear and support parents everywhere, we have come up with a few tips on how you can help your child make friends.

Keep in mind that you don’t want to forcefully push your children to do something they don’t want; this could have massive repercussions. Instead, ease them into trying new things slowly. Gradient is the key word here: if you throw a frog into a boiling pot of water, it will jump out; but if you put the frog in cool water, and heat it up slowly, the frog will stay in the pot!

Tips To Help My Child Make Friends

KEY POINT: Children learn through example, and the best example is through mimicking their parents.

1) Don’t force them into making friends or doing things they are uncomfortable doing;
As stated above, if you force your child into doing something that they don’t like, it may give them a negative experience that traumatises them. Naturally, there are times when we have no choice. For example, starting school could be something many children resist, but it is something that has to be done for many families. Eventually, they get the hang of it and become independent in a new structure and routine. For making friends, ease them into the new experience by introducing new activities or discussions in their daily routine.
2) Teach empathy;
Teaching children to be kind, empathetic and compassionate towards others supports them in understanding other people. It is very difficult not to make friends when you are understanding and supportive of others. You can teach empathy in a variety of ways, such as visiting an elderly relative, or donating clothes and toys to other children, etc. This also teaches your child to share and to be aware of other people’s feelings which will support them in making friends in the future.
3) Invite friends over;
Again, start small and make playdates or friends a part of the schedule. If so-and-so comes over every Thursday to play with your child for about an hour or so, this will get your child used to spending time and playing with other children.
As stated above, children learn by mimicking their parents. So if you are someone who has a friend or two come over regularly, your child may begin mimicking this behavior eventually. If you have a friend with a child roughly the same age as yours, all the better! It is a win-win situation!
4) If your child is shy, start the playdates small;
Again, don’t overwhelm them by throwing them into a large group. Ease them into it slowly and make it a part of your weekly routine. Acknowledge your child’s needs and don’t make your child wrong for being a certain way. Many parents may praise and delight in a child who has tonnes of friends while being condescending to their own child who takes it more slowly when it comes to the group. Make sure your child is comfortable, acknowledge and work with them instead of against them.
5) Get involved in said playdates
Playdates are not just about the children getting together and playing alone while the adults talk in another room. Getting involved in your child’s playdates, and playing with them can support them in feeling safe in a new setting or with new people. Take those extra few minutes to demonstrate how to share and participating in some game or activity. Again, children learn through mimicking their parents.
6) Talk to your children about their emotions.
Emotions are such a taboo subject for many cultures across the world. The old phrases such as, “Big boys do not cry,” and “Big girls do not cry,” do not sit well with evolved children of the day. Do not make their emotions wrong when they are feeling their feelings. Talk with them about it, “Why don’t you want to play with Susie today? Are you feeling afraid or scared?” Helping children to be comfortable with their emotions also helps them work through them in the future. Instead of being paralysed by their feelings, they will know how to work through them more effectively by not resisting them or shoving them down. As they confront their feelings, they are less controlled by them.

Each child is different, unique and develops differently throughout their lives. Where one child may excel at math subjects, they may develop socially; where one child’s physical development and motor skills are exceptional, they may lack in communication. In short, do not panic if your child is a little shy and takes their time to make friends. This is part of their unique personality. Encourage them gently but give them the space to explore and grow on their own.
Wishing you AND your child an abundance of friends!
Jana Moreno

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