Ways to Help Your Child Make Friends in School

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Kids today seem to have busier schedules than ever before, as we shuffle them from one activity to another. Some can jump right into social situations, while others struggle. Here are a few tips to help your child make new friends.

Take time to observe and understand how your child socializes: Attend a few activities at school and pay close attention to how your child interacts with others. Do they behave differently than at home? If so, your child may have a tough time starting conversations. They may have anxiety in large groups or a fear of public speaking that keeps them from engaging with other children. Does your child prefer to observe instead of joining in. Depending on what behavior you see, you can then decide where to focus your attention, what skills need building, and how you can contribute? 

Model positive social behavior: Children learn by example, so be mindful of how you interact with others. Every time you strike up conversations with friends or neighbors, your child is aware. Almost every scenario becomes a learning opportunity, allowing your child to see how you join in, negotiate, and problem-solve.

Give your child a head start: If your child wants to play baseball but is reluctant to start, visit the field with them and throw the ball around so they can get acclimated ahead of time. Go early to the first practice, so you arrive before others start showing up and the scene gets more chaotic.

Reinforce and praise: Make it exciting and rewarding to practice trying new things. Even when your child is only making slow progress, make sure to reinforce their efforts. Acknowledge each small success and tell your child how proud you are that they keeps trying.

Get the ball rolling: For smaller children, setting up a play date with just one other child is often a good idea. If your child is older, you might open up the house by inviting the sports team over for pizza and a movie.

Don’t compare your child to other siblings: Be realistic about your child’s unique personality and temperament, which guides how much social interaction they seek. Just because you have dozens of friends doesn’t mean your child will, too. It doesn’t necessarily mean there is a problem. Some shy children make a few good friends instead of having many casual friends.


Dondi Ahlers