Though making friends is an important part of being a child, it doesn’t come easy to everyone. This childhood ritual can prove to be quite daunting for some, but with these five tips, based on expert knowledge, you can help your child navigate through this wonderfully exciting rite of passage.
1. Playing is Practicing
Parents are their kid’s first teachers and play is an important part in teaching kids the skills needed to make friends. One of the most influential ways that a parent can teach these skills early on is to simply play with their children. Psychologist Rebecca Eberlin says that when parents play and dance with their child, they give them the opportunity to rehearse different types of situations with the people that they feel most comfortable with.
2. Create Opportunities
Clinical psychologist Laura Markham suggests that parents create opportunities for their child to make friends early on in life. For children who aren’t school-aged, parents can do things like set up play dates and involve their kids in extra-curricular activities in order to give their child the chance to make friends. This not only creates opportunity for children to make friends, but also helps them build the social skills that they will need later in life. Parents can take time during these early social events to monitor their child’s behavior and that of the other child. Parents can engage when the situation calls for it, and disengage when everything has been settled to help children develop the necessary problem solving skills.
3. Teach Your Child How to be a Good Friend
Psychologist Mary Jane Rotheram encourages parents to set examples for what is means to be a good friend. If a parent is being a good friend, then it is likely that the child will follow suit. She also suggests that parents try to catch their child in the act of being a good friend and praise them for it. Encouraging them to make good choices when it comes to their friends can help them create new friendships and maintain existing ones.
4. Set Realistic Expectations
Parents must make certain that they are not setting the bar too high for their child. For instance Rotheram says that it is highly unlikely that a 2 or 3 year-old will share their toys with their friends. Furthermore, she states that children only begin to reciprocate friendship around first grade. Parents should also be weary of pushing their child to make too many friends. When it comes to making friends it is not the quantity of friendships that matter but the quality.
5. Support and Communicate
Eberlin says the most important part of helping your child navigate through friendships is support and communication. Support your child on their journey through making friendships and through ending them. Communicate realistic and appropriate behaviors. If your child is bossy or rude, help them to understand how their behavior affects others. Allow your child to talk about what’s going on in their world of friends and be there to offer encouragement when they need it.