“Friends are like stars – You can’t always see them, but you know they’re always there”
Forming friendships is an important part of a child’s life. Friendships give children a sense of belonging, build self-esteem, and develop social skills.
Friendships can vary according to age, levels of trust, personal stages of development and other factors.
But sometimes challenges can get in the way of forming friendships, and as a result, children may struggle to make friends.
So how can we support a child who is struggling with forming friendships and social connections?
As a parent, there are lots of different ways to support your child. Here are some examples:
Arrange playdates and sleepovers
Playdates and sleepovers are a great way to encourage bonding time with friends and can help build friendships and shared experiences.
Model positive social behaviour
Children learn by example, so it’s important for you as a parent to be mindful of how you interact with others.
Children are aware of your conversations and social interactions, and this becomes a learning opportunity for your child, in which they can see how you join in, negotiate and problem solve.
Talk to your child – don’t avoid the problem
If social situations are difficult for your child, sometimes you may think it would be easier to avoid or ignore the problem.
But this won’t help your child in learning how to improve their relationships. Talk to your child about how they are feeling and encourage them by sharing your own experiences of friendship when you were a child.
If your child isn’t ready to talk, reassure them that they can always come to you.
Practice social scenarios with your child
Many children don’t know how to ask someone to play. It can be useful to walk your child through how to approach another child and invite them to play.
Practicing at home and testing different topics to talk about can help too. Engaging in role play can also help your child to explore various types of interactions.
Encourage and enable your child to get involved in activities
Identify an area where your child feels particularly competent, for example creating art, playing sports, or making music, then encourage them to get involved.
This is a good way to boost a child’s confidence, but also enables them to mix with children who share common interests.
Talk to your child’s teacher
Communication with your child’s teacher is important. Talk to them about how you are feeling and seek their viewpoint.
They are there to support your child and can provide opportunities for friendship development by implementing buddy systems or through the creation of various social activities which can foster friendships within the classroom.