My oldest child was a social butterfly and collected friends everywhere she went; she needed no help whatsoever with her social life. But my son and youngest daughter were much more reserved about developing friendships and I often had to look for ways to help them with their friendship-building.
If you have a child who needs a little social shove to make friends, here’s some ideas to help them build friendships:
Set up Playdates
In the busy-ness of school and extra-curricular activities, it’s easy for playdates to take a low priority. But they are great opportunities for your child to “practice socializing.” For the first couple of times, have the playdates in your home, so you can observe your child’s behavior. If you notice he’s not being a good friend (not sharing, interrupting), talk with him after his friend goes home and help him understand the importance of being a good friend and what that looks like.
Find Common Interests
Try to get your child involved in activities where she’ll meet other kids who share the same interests. Whether it’s sports, art, music, girl scouts, cooking–this is a great opportunity for your child to connect with kids who share her interests. It’s a natural place for friendships to develop.
Remember to invest in your own friendships, because your child sees how you are as a friend. Being an adult who is so wrapped up in your kids’ lives that you have no time for your own friendships is unhealthy for you and for your child.
Make Sure Your Child Has Time for Friends
With so many extra-curricular options available, it’s easy to fill your kids’ day with activities that don’t allow much free time to play outside and enjoy neighborhood friends. Give your kids enough unstructured time so they are forced to seek their own entertainment. That just may come in the form of asking a neighbor to come out and play.
When to Ask for Help
If your child doesn’t want to leave the house, is constantly crying or saying, “I have no friends,” it might be time to get help from a counselor. There’s no shame in getting counseling; one of my kids has been meeting with a counselor and is emotionally healthier because of it.
Knowing how to make friends is an important part of the growing-up process. If your child struggles, it’s okay for you to step in with some encouragement and friendship-making opportunities until they’ve figured out how to develop social attachments and get along with friends on their own.