Friendship is important, and as adults, we know that having a network of friends to support and encourage you can make life much easier.
Kids need friends too, but sometimes, it can take them a while to find others that they really connect with.
If your child struggles to make friends, or simply isn’t that outgoing or doesn’t take the initiative, they might need a bit of help from you. Don’t worry. There’s so much you can do to help your child gain the skills they need to make friends, and even to help them find kids they enjoy hanging out with.
1. Figure Your Kid Out
All kids think about friendship differently, so don’t make the mistake of assuming that your child’s idea about friendship is the same as yours. Take some time to figure out your child’s ‘style’ of friendship, and anticipate that your child will relate to people in a different way to you. For example, just because you enjoy spending time in a large group of friends, doesn’t mean your child won’t prefer more one-on-one interaction.
2. Teach Basic ‘Friendship’ Skills
Kids don’t emerge into the world of socialising and friendship in a fully formed way. It’s your job as a parent to teach them the skills they’ll need to get along with other kids in a positive way. Some of these start young, like teaching to share and be friendly with their peers. Other skills come later, such as learning to be a good conversationalist, to introduce yourself confidently, and to offer friendship.
3. Encourage New Activities
If your child tends to do the same things in the same places all the time, they’re not likely to meet too many new people. So, if your child hasn’t really found a group of friends yet, or they want to extend their network, it’s time to think outside the box. Get them involved in a different activity, particularly something they’re really passionate about. They’re more likely to meet similar minds there.
4. Help Them Work Through Issues
Issues crop up in any friendship, and adults know better than anyone how quickly a neglected friendship can fall apart. For kids, friendships fall apart often because things get blown out of proportion by child minds. Arguments don’t herald the end of a friendship, and teaching that they do only makes things harder for your child later. Instead, help them to work through issues they have with their friends, and see their friendships emerge stronger.
5. Allow Them To Choose Their Friends
One of the great things about having children is that they are their own little people, and they get to make their own choices and their own mistakes. This is true in friendship as well. Just because a friend your child has chosen doesn’t fit into your idea of what their friends might be, doesn’t mean they won’t be great friends. Of course, nobody can make you feel uncomfortable as a parent, but see how your child enjoys themselves, and think about the consequences of you stepping in.
6. Watch Out For Bullies
Kids should be encouraged to work things out for themselves, but parents need to step in if it becomes bullying. This usually starts as joking teasing, which doesn’t do that much damage early on. However, from the age of six onwards, kids can be really negatively impacted by teasing, and it shouldn’t be put up with. Bullying is always bad, so keep an eye out for it, particularly if you think your child is being targeted.
7. Motivate Good Friendships
If your child has found a friend or two that they really connect with, do what you can as a parent to ensure that relationship flourishes. Talk to the other child’s parent, organise activities and play dates, and get to know that child a little better. There’s a reason your child liked them, and you probably will too. By making it easier for your child to maintain that friendship, you’re helping it grow for the future.