Helping Kids Make Friends
‘My child seems to have a hard time making friends. What are some practical tips on helping them socialize?’
It can be hard to watch our children struggle socially.
The first thing to keep in mind is the need for age-appropriate expectations around making friends: early preschoolers and toddlers are unaware of different points of view, so sharing and ‘thinking of the other guy’ do not come naturally. During the preschool years, children gradually develop an awareness of the other child’s feelings.
Kindergarten and grade one are years for learning about friends—what makes a good friend, how can I be a good friend, etc.? We can teach younger children sharing skills by playing turn-taking games, encouraging sharing and teaching helpful scripts: “Can I play with that when you are done?” Older children can handle more extensive strategies.
It is helpful to know the four basic principles of healthy relationships:
- You control only half of the relationship with your friend; he controls the other half.
- You can’t make him play with you; you can only invite him to play.
- You can influence all of the relationship—how you treat him can make a big difference in how your friend responds.
- “No” is a complete sentence. If your friend doesn’t want to play, no matter how respectfully you asked, you must honor his “no” and go find someone else to play with you.
Create new scripts with your child. Have her pick out three children she might ask to play, what she’ll invite them to do and the language to ask as well as a sentence if the friend says no. Support hurt feelings and encourage effort.
They’ll be making friends soon enough.