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Inside: Encouraging your child to develop social skills will help them become more confident and interact with other kids more easily! Here are 8 powerful tips on how to help kids make friends and build happy friendships.
My son was sitting next to me on the side of the playground. He had his favorite car in his hands, and he was quietly watching other kids playing. I knew he wanted to join them but approaching a group of kids probably seemed too overwhelming.
While there are many things I love about having an introverted child, I must admit that witnessing this kind of moments was hard for me as a mom. I had a completely different personality as a child, and it took me a while to learn how to help him manage these situations in a way that is compatible with his temperament.
I realized that helping him starts with fully accepting the way he chooses to approach social situations, and not adding any unnecessary pressure to situations that can be already overwhelming for him. Instead, I decided to focus on ways to help him make friends and develop his social skills so that he can approach social situations with more confidence.
At first, I offered him the emotional guidance I felt he needed. We talked about friendships and social situations. He practiced different ways to approach other kids (and learned from each experience). I offered him plenty of opportunities to get to know other children and interact with them.
Over the course of a few months, the changes were amazing! He is still an introverted child, but he has a lot more confidence and he learned how to make friends more easily. Sometimes he quickly fits in a group of new kids, other times he is reluctant to interact with them and prefers to stay alone.
During his year in Pre-K, he was very sociable and confident in his social abilities, and make lots of friends. Then, during the summer camp he attends right now I noticed that he still finds it challenging at times to interact with some of the other kids.
It is normal at his age to still learn how to navigate social situations, but with kindergarten starting in less than a month I started once again to pay more attention to this. I want to help him prepare for all the new interactions he will need to manage at school, and encourage him to make new friends.
This is why today I want to share with you all the tips that helped me teach him how to make friends. These ideas made a huge difference for him in the past, and I’ll focus on them again as I prepare him for the start of school.
How to help kids make friends: 8 powerful tips to try
If you want to encourage your child to make friends more easily, these tips will offer them the support they need to develop their social skills!
1. Talk about friendships
Building friendships is something that young kids need to learn. Developing abilities such as sharing, taking turns, or showing empathy is very important for their ability to make friends and building long-term friendships.
One easy way to teach kids about friendship is sharing experiences from your own childhood. Talk to your child about the things that helped you make friends as a child, but also about the challenges you faced in your interactions with other kids. It’s important for kids to know that facing rejection or conflicts from time to time is a normal part of the process of making friends. Letting them know that you experienced this as well as a child makes things easier for them and gives them the confidence that they can handle this kind of situations.
Another helpful way to help children develop their social skills is to read books about friendship. These books are great for encouraging kids to open up about their worries and concerns, and teach them how to approach different social situations.
⭐ Here are some of our favorite books about friendship: (click on the links below to get more details about the books)
2. Talk about rejection and bullying
As I mentioned above, talking about rejection is very helpful because kids will experience it in their social interactions. It’s important for children to know that everybody experiences rejection and that it doesn’t mean that it is something wrong with them.
Another important topic to approach with your child is bullying. Sometimes when kids have a hard time making friends they can tend to accept mean behaviors from their peers because they are afraid to lose “friendships” if they stand up for themselves. Every child should know that no one is allowed to treat them unkind and say or do mean things to them.
Also, it is helpful to provide the child with a few ideas on how to respond if they face rejection or bullying. This will make them feel better prepared to face these situations and less intimidated by the idea of making friends with new kids.
3. Help your child develop social skills
Here are some ways you can help your child develop social skills:
- suggest easy ways to approach kids and offer them guidance when they seem overwhelmed
- teach them about sharing and taking turns
- encourage them to talk about the things that seem hard for them in their interaction with other kids, and work on finding solutions together
- teach your child about empathy and how it can help them connect better with other children
- offer your support anytime your child faces a challenging situation
- provide plenty of opportunities for your child to practice their social skills and get better at interacting with other children.
4. Offer different opportunities for socializing and encourage the child’s friendships to develop
This is what helped my son the most and allowed him to build his confidence and social skills.
⭐ Here are some easy ways to encourage socializing and interactions with other kids:
- go to different playgrounds and provide the child the opportunity to meet new kids on a regular basis
- encourage the child to participate in activities with other kids and develop friendships with them (like joining a sports team, going to the weekly storytime at the library, participating in weekly art or music classes)
- observe the child’s behavior in different environments and focus on those where they seem comfortable and confident (e.g., When my son was 4 years olds, I noticed that my son really enjoyed going to one of the playgrounds that were further away from our house. So I decided to take him there on a daily basis, although on our way to that park we were passing by two other playgrounds. It turned out to be a great decision because he made a best friend there and became very confident in interacting with other kids.)
- encourage new friendships to develop by organizing playdates or regular activities with their friends.
5. Let the child work things out with their friends on their own (when possible)
Friendships also come with challenging situations like conflicts, upsets, fights over toys, bossiness, jealousy, and so on. As parents, we are sometimes tempted to intervene and “save” our children from difficult situations. But the truth is that in many cases our involvement can do more harm than good.
This is why I never intervene in my son’s interactions with other kids unless there is a good reason to do this (like stopping aggressive behavior or bullying). But even in the case when aggression or bullying happens, if there is no imminent danger, I first try to assess the situation and see if my involvement is necessary. Sometimes allowing the kids a few moments to work things on their own can stop the aggression and provide children a valuable lesson for their future interactions.
Taking a step back was not easy at first, especially when I could see my son was struggling, but it helps him gain confidence in his ability to handle difficult situations on his own. He knows that he can always come to me when he faces a challenging moment, and we work on finding a solution that he can implement on his own.
As he grows up there are plenty of new situations he needs to face and he still needs to learn many things about friendships and social interactions, but hopefully, this good start will help him manage these situations easier and come to me for guidance when things get too overwhelming.
6. Listen to the child’s feelings and accept their personality and temperament
I can’t emphasize enough how important this is! The fact that I was an extroverted child made it difficult at times to fully understand my son’s fears and worries. Also, the fact that he approaches social situations completely different than I would make it hard at first to help him find solutions he would be willing to try.
But the truth is that every type of personality comes with both strengths and weaknesses. My son is a great friend due to his kind and loyal personality, and I would never want to change that! So I quickly understood that the best way to help him was t0 fully accept his personality, and let him guide me in finding the solutions that would work best for him.
Also, listening to his feelings with hurrying into judging or offering solutions had a huge positive impact on him! When kids feel heard and understood something amazing happens: they become more confident, they open up to us about their worries, and they are a lot more likely to trust our guidance in overcoming their struggles.
7. Don’t let your expectations put more pressure on your child
In many situations, the parent’s expectations can put more pressure on an already insecure child. And this only makes things a lot worse!
For example, if a child didn’t make any friends at school, the parent might feel tempted to insist on this topic every day by asking the child if they manage to make friends. But for a child how already feels insecure about his abilities to interact with other kids, these questions can make them feel like there is something wrong with them. This might lead to them refusing to talk about their struggles, and pushing away the parent’s attempts to help.
⭐ Instead, here are some approaches that can bring better results:
- Ask about the child’s day without focusing on the topic of making friends, and use the answers to assess the situation (e.g. ask the child what he did at recess, where he sat at lunchtime, what was the best part of their day – If the answers mention other kids encourage the child to tell you more about their interactions with the other children. If not, see if you can come up with some suggestions that would encourage your child to interact more with their peers.)
- If your child tells you about a new friend they made, show interest in finding out more details. Help the child realize what helped them make a new friend, and how they can use the same strategies again with other kids. See if there is anything you can do to help the child develop the friendship, like organizing a playdate or going to the same park or activities their friends go to.
- If your child is upset about not making friends or experiencing negative interactions with other kids, take the time to listen to all their feelings and worries. Let them know that you understand their feelings and that you want to help them. Then work on finding solutions together, and help the child implement them.
8. Help your child develop their self-esteem and confidence
A child with high self-esteem will overcome difficult situations easier. Also, a confident child will be able to approach new kids quicker and face challenging interactions easier.
So one of the best things we can do as parents to make sure that our kids will be able to develop healthy friendships is to help them develop their self-esteem and confidence.
⭐ Here are some great ways to do this:
- 7 ways to help an introverted child have more confidence (most of the tips apply to extroverted kids as well)
- 8 simple and powerful ways to boost self-esteem in kids.
There is no “magic” solution on how to help kids make friends and develop long-term friendships. But as parents, there are things we can do to offer our kids the best tools for managing social interactions with confidence. And I hope that these tips will help you as much as they helped us!
For more parenting inspiration check out these articles:
- How to help kids overcome the fear of failure and why this is so important
- How to get kids to tell you about their day at school.
>> Want to remember this? Save these ideas to your favorite Pinterest board!
photos from depositphotos.com