How to help your child make and keep friends
Small children between the ages of 3 and 6 often find it easy to make friends. Past this age, it gets harder for some children to make friends. This is because elementary school kids start being more self-aware. Common interests, social class, and family background dictate whether your child is “acceptable” to a certain clique or to be friends with other kids. This is especially true in the school environment. A parent then ends up worried sick seeing the child come home from school disappointed and in low spirits because she/he does not have any friends.
As a parent or guardian, seeing your child happy is paramount. However, many parents do not know how to help in such a situation. She/he cannot fix and force a friendship. However, these techniques work in helping your child make friends.
Understand the situation
Getting a deeper understanding of why your child has no friends will give you a broader insight on how best to help. Some elementary school kids may need help in developing their social skills. Natural shyness is normal for children. For some, it may be worse especially if the family has a trend of moving homes. Children whose family is always on the move often don’t get to know other kids in school or in the neighborhood long enough to form a solid friendship. With a better understanding of such a situation, you can know how best to help.
Create a wonderful friendship between the two of you first
Being your child’s close friend creates trust and good rapport. Your child will feel freer to talk to you and give you further information on why she/he is having trouble making friends. Friendships create an atmosphere to bond. When bonding, you as the parent have a role to play by listening. Being keen to your child’s story of how his/her day went will tell you more on what the problem seems to be. Nonverbal cues will also help you pick up things your child is perhaps not telling you.
Nurture your child’s social skills
Creating play dates, and practicing to say hello are some of the baby steps parents can take in boosting their child’s social skills. Shy children feel most comfortable at home. Small play dates at home with you will put the child at ease after a lonely day in school. It gives the child a break as she/he tries to work it out on their own.
Expose them to social scenarios
If you have just moved to a new neighborhood, introducing yourself to the next-door neighbor is one way to go. If you’re lucky, your neighbor might have a child too. As the grown-ups develop a friendship, it trickles down to the children too. Also, make it a habit to take your child to public parks where she/he plays among other kids. It won’t take long before the child finds common ground (the fun) with the other kids.
Involve the teachers and coaches
Filling the teacher in on what your child is going through in school (having no friends) will help. Teachers spend a lot of time with children in school. They know how best to handle and encourage friendships in school, even if your child is extremely shy. In fact, they are better trained at how to encourage children’s development. So get them involved. There may be another child in the class having the same problem. Perhaps the teacher could encourage a friendship.
Get professional help
If your child is not developing the skills to be able to initiate conversations or maintain a friendship, don’t just wait for them to “grow out of it”, they might not, get professional help. It is a reality that some children lack the skills commonly known as the “hidden curriculum”. The “hidden curriculum” skills manifest themselves as the intuitive way we just figure out how to perform in social situations, often by observing and mimicking others. If your child does not pick up on the skills their siblings or peers do pick up on they may need professional help. Don’t wait, the earlier the better.
At the Support for Students Growth Center in Boca Raton, Florida we offer many social, behavioral, academic, and developmental services for children, teens, young adults and their families including 11 different social skills groups weekly for young people ages 4 well into adulthood. Call us, we may be able to help.
Dr. Eric Nach, Ph.D., M.Ed., A.S.D. Cert. Developmental and Behavioral Specialist and Associates
For more information about Dr. Nach’s Online Resources and how to enroll, visit our website at: http://drnachonline.com/