As the wonders of technology continue to impact every aspect of our lives, it’s no wonder that the art of making friends eludes some children.
But with a little help, and some guidance from parents and teachers, many kids can overcome friendship hurdles.
Below, Kids First’s psychologists explain how …
Why is it so hard for some kids to make friends?
Many years ago, a conversation had to take place face to face.
People learned to read body language and listened for the cues that tone of voice gave.
We knew when to reach out and place a hand on a shoulder or even to offer a hug.
When phones became common place, we lost face to face contact, but were still able to rely on tone of voice which made communication so much clearer.
Now, with the advent of email and texting, we no longer have the tone of voice to help us and for kids raised on ‘screens’, emojis are the best they can do to relay emotions.
Experts are now raising red flags, calling parents’ attention to the fact that many kids no longer know how to reach out in friendship or enjoy playground fun because they are too engrossed in gaming and screen-time.
So what can a parent do to nurture the human need for contact and friendship?
How can you help your child make friends?
Let’s take a look at 5 practical ways you can help your child discover the art of friendship skills that will last a lifetime.
1. Walk the Talk
Friendship is not just for children.
What you show your kids is far more powerful than what you tell them.
Granted, this is not an easy task in our demanding world, but your child will adopt your pattern of lived friendship.
Invite friends into your home for a meal, use snail mail to send a note of encouragement, and don’t be afraid to show your kids that you can disagree with someone and still be friends.
2. Begin Before They Can Talk
The seeds of friendship skills are sown early in life. Your young child is soaking it all in.
Everything you do and say is being noticed and remembered.
Sharing, caring, empathy, and sympathy are all foundations for relationships that last.
Expose your child to play groups, team sports and other opportunities to interact early so that your child can learn the art of kindness.
3. Read, Read, Read
There are many children’s books on the market that focus on friendship.
Read to each other and let your child connect with characters that learn to share, be truthful, and include others who are different.
These characters will also teach your child that friendship is give and take and doesn’t always involve getting your own way.
4. Listen, Talk, Listen
Your child will most likely have stories to tell at the end of the school day.
As you listen, plan to respond with thought provoking and problem solving questions such as “how did that make you feel?” and “what could you have done to make it better?”
Watch for opportunities to discuss the truths of personal responsibility and not being responsible for how others behave.
Children need to know they cannot change another person, they can only control themselves.
5. Awareness and Planned Opportunities
Friendship building must be on purpose.
Help your child notice her surroundings and kids on the playground who are alone.
Encourage her to offer friendship with simple requests like “Hey, do you want to play?” or “Hi, my name is. . .”
Listen for names your child mentions and offer opportunities for him to make friends outside of the schoolyard by meeting at a park, beach, or your own backyard.
You play an important role in helping your child be a good friend
As technology continues to evolve and our kids become further connected in cyber-space, they need the adults in their lives to keep them grounded in reality and so that they can develop people skills.
You can do this for your child when you model the art of being a good friend, and by keeping the lines of communication open with your kids.
© 2017 Kids First Children’s Services
Does your child need help to learn how to make friends?
Kids First Children’s Services offers a popular friendship and social skills program for kids ages 6-10 called Circle of Friends.
Led by our experienced psychologists, Circle of Friends helps kids learn how to connect and collaborate with other children so that life at school and home is happier.
Contact us on (02) 9938 5419 and let us help you give your children friendship tools that will last a lifetime.