Making friends at school

All parents want their children to be confident and to have a group of loyal friends. For kids who find this difficult, positive, hands-on parental support will help them succeed.

For many parents, having a child that struggles socially is one of their worst nightmares. We do everything that’s in our control to take care of them but the obstacle course that is navigating social structures can be a daunting challenge. Finding the best path to help your little one make friends is a hugely impactful aspect of parenting.

Every child needs, and deserves, a core group of trusted and loyal peers, yet not all kids are naturally sociable. The good news is that social skills can be learned and developed, meaning that even the most shy child can develop close bonds and friendships. This isn’t about becoming the coolest kid in the class or winning popularity contests – the focus is to equip your little one with the necessary tools to build healthy relationships with other children their own age.

Don’t jump right in

Instinct can kick right in when a parent sees their little one struggling in any way, and socialising is no different. Instead of letting your own anxiety or emotion force you to intervene immediately, try to take a step back to analyse the situation. Doing so will give you a deeper understanding of how and why your child struggles, which will then enable you to help them in whatever way they need.

Next time you see your little one approaching a social situation (or avoiding it), pause and try to identify what the issue is. Perhaps they feel intimidated by groups or struggle to initiate conversations. They may be comfortable alone or on the periphery of a group, but completely freeze whenever the attention of others is placed on them. Consider this part of the process a scouting mission – you are feeling out which aspects of socialising your child is struggling with. With this insight, you’ll be in a great place to support them.

Set an example

It’s now widely accepted that children learn a lot of their behaviours from those around them. Parents are often the primary role model for their children and this extends to how we behave socially. Be aware that your little one is closely watching how you interact with people in your life, whether it’s your partner, your friends or even strangers. Whether we like it or not, some of our children’s social struggles may come as a result of them mirroring us in certain ways. We must make a concerted effort to set the example that we want our little ones to follow. Each social interaction you have is a chance to show your child the kind of behaviour that will help them to make friends.

Practise at home

Inside your home is an ideal, safe space for your little one to practise their social skills with you. Removed from the pressures and anxieties of making friends, together you can role play different scenarios and coach your child on how to interact with others. Coming up with different ways to approach a new person, some topics of conversation that your child is interested in and what to do if they run out of things to say are all things to discuss during these conversations.

Get ahead

A simple trick to help your little one with their social struggles, once some home-based role-playing has been completed, is to do some trial runs in the real world. Encourage your child to say hello to the cashier next time you’re in the grocery store. If your child is starting a sport or hobby, take them to a few private lessons beforehand so that they’re not trying to balance the frightening prospect of meeting new people with the challenge of learning a new skill. Little steps like this can help kids to be more comfortable in a social situation, meaning they’re less anxious and more likely to have a positive experience.

Praise and comfort

Each time your child makes an effort socially, make sure to praise them. Though saying hello to a new child may not seem like a big deal to some, this could be a big achievement for your child and that deserves to be acknowledged. Try to find a balance with this, as constantly showering praise might not have the desired effect. Gentle, steady encouragement as your child takes steps and reaches new levels will embolden them to keep doing so. If an attempted social interaction doesn’t go too well, make sure you’re on hand to comfort them. Remind them that they’re worthy of love and acceptance, and guide them back on track.

Action over avoidance

Avoiding the problem entirely may seem an easier approach at first. Lots of children are introverted or like to spend time alone, and that’s okay isn’t it? The answer is yes and no. While it’s equally important for kids to be comfortable in their own company, this doesn’t negate the need for them to socialise. A proactive parenting approach will certainly challenge your little one in the early stages but it will ensure that they solve this problem and develop into sociable, confident young people.

Image Credit: Shutterstock

Previous Navigating special educational needs
Next How to approach postpartum fitness

You might also like


Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.