Every parent worries if their child is doing well or not socially.
That’s understandable. How well your child develops friendships can have a profound effect on their life and emotional well-being.
In fact, according to Dr. Paul Schwartz at Mount Saint Mary College, “Compared to children who lack friends, children with “good” friends have higher self-esteem. They are less likely to be lonely and act more pro socially. They are able to cope with life stresses and normal transitions and are also less victimized by peers.”
The emotional and mental value that good friends provide is greatly beneficial.
But how do we help our kids make friends?
In addition to providing opportunities for your child to meet other kids that he or she might become friends with, there are a few ways you can help your child develop stronger social skills.
Here are a few tips to help your child make friends.
Coach Conversation – Help your child understand what it takes to have a good conversation. Give them topics he or she can talk about with a new friend. Do you have pets? Who’s your favorite superhero? What’s your favorite game to play?
Coach your child into listening and not dominating the conversation and to give information not just ask questions.
Don’t trivialize emotions – Even adults have negative emotions. We have just become better at not acting on them. To make friends and become more emotionally intelligent, kids need to learn how to work through negative emotions. Kids under six are still developing the parts of their brain that deal with controlling emotions so outbursts will still happen. Don’t fret. It’s a natural part of growing up, but you can start laying the groundwork now for better emotional control later.
Do this by coaching your child through negative emotions in a sympathetic way. Then help your child learn how to problem solve what is going on for themselves. Don’t simply blow your child off or tell him or her that it is silly to feel that way. Such a response can actually cause your child to have less self-control next time negative emotions happen.
For example: You might say, “I’m sorry you’re upset that it rained and you didn’t get to go the zoo today. Sometimes things happen that are beyond our control, but let’s make the best of it. What are some fun things we can do on a rainy day?” This helps your child become better at coping when things do go their way. Studies have found that children that are coached through their emotions in this way have stronger friendships as they grow up.
The Body Has It – Help your child practice friendly body language like making eye contact and introducing yourself.
Some younger children even benefit from practicing what different emotions look like in others. Make a sad face, happy face, or an angry face and ask your child what emotion he or she thinks you’re feeling. This can possibly help your child develop more empathy resulting in better chances of making friends.
Know When to Back Off – For the most part, allow kids work out their differences and negotiate how they’re going to play. This is a great way for your child to practice and develop their social skills.
Know When to Hover – The exception is when your child is being bullied. Being bullied is not a healthy experience. This is when an adult should step in and help correct the situation.
Bonus Tip – How do you know if your child is making friends if you don’t see them at school? Ask a question like, “Which kids do you sit with/talk to at lunch?” This gives you an idea on whether or not other kids are socializing with your child.
Remember, every child is different and some kids are naturally more outgoing than others. If your kid enjoys his or her alone time, don’t try to force them to be more extroverted. Make sure to work with your child’s personality when helping them learn how to make friends.
How do you help your kids make friends? Post your strategies below!