How to help your child make friends
For many of us, our biggest worry is our little one struggling to make friends or feeling left out. We want them to be able to socialise and form meaningful friendships – after all, human beings thrive on companionship.
Sadly as parents, we can’t go out and find friends for our children, it’s something that we have to let them work out for themselves. You will usually be surprised by how well and how quickly they fit in and find friends.
However, there are definitely things you can do to help prepare your children to create rewarding friendships.
1. Familiarise them with peer groups
From an early age, baby and toddler groups, playschool, family get-togethers, or even meeting up with other mums and their children, are all great ways to get children used to playing and communicating with their peers.
Having a variety of social groups or activities that you go to helps them meet different friends and prevents cliques. It can also be a good way to help you meet new friends too!
2. Teach conversation skills
Babies start to babble from an early age, and when you start a ‘conversation’ with them, they will quickly learn the basics of communication – for example, talking when you leave a gap and listening while you’re speaking.
3. Try to instil manners from early on
Being polite and friendly will help your child with social skills such as sharing and turn-taking. Remember, you are their strongest role model and learning good manners from you will help them as they grow up and mix with others.
4. Open your home
By making your home a friendly, welcoming place for your children’s friends to visit, it helps your own children to build on friendships which have begun at school or nursery. It also lets you see how your child interacts and plays with others.
5. Help them to be open with others
In order to make friends, children need to show others that they like them, which can be a little tricky for those who are more reserved or shy. You can help them to do this by displaying friendly, open behaviours in everyday situations such as greeting strangers with a smile and paying people compliments. Role-playing at home can also help build their confidence in these interactions.
6. Encourage empathy
Young children may struggle with empathy as they are still very centred around their own experiences and emotions, but talking to them about their own feelings and how others in the same situation might feel is helpful. Understanding how their behaviour impacts other children will go a long way in helping them to develop these social-emotional skills and become a good friend themselves.
7. Offer props
If little ones are struggling to break the ice, sometimes taking a ball or toy that they can play together with others can help them to get chatting. There are often playground crazes which will help them to feel part of the group and give them common ground to connect with others on.
8. Watch out for bullying
If you suspect that your child is bullying or being bullied, speak to the school or group leader straight away, but don’t be too quick to jump into normal playground quarrels. Young children can be quite fickle and may move between different friends quite frequently – it’s important that children are given the freedom to choose their own friends and try to resolve any conflict themselves.
While it is important to allow children the space to make their own friends, there are plenty of ways you can help them to break the ice and build their confidence, especially if they are a little more shy or reserved, so try some of our tips and see if they help.
More often than not, you will have nothing to worry about as they will quickly bond over shared interests and find friends wherever they go.