Having friends is not just fun but very important for children. Friendships give kids a sense of belonging and help them with developing various social skills. However, all children are different, so it is only natural that some have difficulties making friends. If you think you recognize your kids in this sentence, don’t worry. There are plenty of ways to help your kids make new friends.
The importance of friendships
As an essential element for children’s emotional and social development, friendships are crucial. There is a whole science behind making friends. And friendships are a vital part of our childhood and growing up. The fact that you probably still remember your first childhood friend confirms this.
Here are only some of the reasons why making friends is essential for youngsters:
- Helps kids build confidence and self-esteem
- Helps them learn to handle adversity and conflicts
- Children learn about the meaning of true friendship and what it means to have someone to rely on
- Kids will develop a sense of belonging, especially if they have felt isolated before
- It also helps with developing imagination
- Having friends to play with mean less TV, phone, and games console time
The importance of your relationship with your kids
To help your kids make new friends, you first need to make sure you understand and know them. Developing a loving relationship with your youngsters is crucial as it will be a role model for any future relationships they have.
The way you treat your kids has a significant impact on their social behavior. You need to make sure to be involved in your kids’ lives. After all, you are their first friend in a way. Communication is the key so try to talk about their feelings and fears.
All children are different, and while for some, making friends will be easy as they naturally have excellent social skills, some will struggle. Some kids are shy or anxious around new people. Some kids seem to prefer alone time. As a parent, it is crucial to pay attention and if you notice that your kids are struggling with making friends, find the best ways to help them overcome this. Making friends is a skill that can be learned with a little bit of patience and guidance on your end.
Be a role model
Kids learn from us and copy our behaviors – both consciously and subconsciously. They listen to us, watch us and absorb every word and behavior.
You need to set a positive example, so be very mindful of how you interact with people. For instance, if your child sees you are rude to a cashier, they will most likely do the same.
Be involved in finding opportunities to meet new peers
If you find your kids are having a hard time fitting in and you notice they spend most of their time alone in their rooms, take it as a sign that they need a little help from you. Maybe they didn’t have enough opportunity to meet new friends.
Try motivating your kids to get involved in some extracurricular activities. Keep in mind your kids’ personality type, and don’t push them into doing something they don’t enjoy. The whole point is for them to find kids with similar interests they can spend time with.
If your kids are struggling and can’t seem to decide on what they like, help them by providing some options. Offer to enroll them in team sports, scouting organizations, music classes, book clubs, or similar. Sometimes, kids need to try different activities to decide what they like.
What if you have just moved to a new place?
Meeting new friends is even more difficult for children if you have just moved to a new place. Moving with children is stressful enough, so talk to them and try doing it while playing. Even unpacking can be turned into a game – it gives you a great chance to have an informal conversation and discover how your kids are feeling.
Do a little research and find out where the closest parks are and discover places where children are most likely to spend time. Strike up conversations with parents while you are there. This is a great chance for you to meet new people and help your kids meet new friends. You will be giving them a positive example, too. They will see you meeting new people, and they’ll be encouraged to do the same.
Helping your kids develop and nurture social skills
To be successful at making friends, children first need to learn different social skills. First of all, you need to make sure they know how to handle their negative emotions. Teach them that everyone is different so that they have an understanding of other peoples’ perspectives and emotions.
Your kids should know the importance of sharing and making compromises. One of the most important things is learning how to apologize and acknowledge that they’ve made a mistake.
Practice makes perfection
At first sight, it might seem challenging to teach your kids all of those complex skills. But don’t worry – there are plenty of ways to do so. You can find plenty of children’s books that you can read together and from which your kids can learn. Books allow kids to draw lessons from them and teach them essential life skills.
Another way to influence your kids is to behave in a way you expect them to. For example, let them see you helping a friend in need – that will have an impact on them developing sympathy.
Practice social skills with your kid by saying hello and introducing yourself to someone new. By playing games with them, you can teach them how to take turns and be patient. That way, when you set up a play date, your kids will have the skill set they need to make and keep friends.
Communication is the key
Communication is vital – by having parents who talk to them, kids are more likely to develop good self-regulatory skills. If parents are more dismissive and punitive, kids have difficulties learning how to express their negative emotions.
If your kids are shy or anxious around new people, you need to provide a safe social environment for them. Knowing that you are there for them if they feel concerned in any way can help with overcoming anxiety issues. If your child suffers from high anxiety and you can’t seem to help, address this with your pediatrician or a school counselor.
Although they are full of ups and downs, childhood friendships are very important. Making friends is a skill that needs to be learned. We, as parents, play a critical role in helping our kids develop these skills.
Be your kids’ friends, but make sure to be their parents first. Make sure you are always there for them and that they know you have their best interest at heart. Having a loving and honest relationship with your kids will help them build strong and true friendships. So, the best way to help your kids make new friends is to be their friend.