5 Tips to Help Your Child to Make Friends
Making friends can be a daunting task for anyone, let alone children! For children who haven’t been equipped with strategies to effectively develop and maintain strong relationships, social problems are can be likely. The social health of children has an incredible impact on their mental health, success at school and long-term social health. The inability to socialise in one’s environment, and cope with the emotional strains of social problems (including bullying, exclusion etc.) can make children susceptible to a wide range of social and mental health problems. The below strategies will help you work with your child to develop their social skills, their problem solving skills, along with their social intelligence.
1. Model Positive Social Skills
Every time you have a social interaction, your child is observing and learning – as you may have seen, kids are natural mimics. Whether it’s the person serving you at the market, or a neighbour, your socialising becomes a learning opportunity for your child. Be mindful of the little things, smiling, eye contact and polite language. Then discuss the interaction with your child – what they think you did well, what you can work on next time. They’ll love telling you what you could improve on!
2. Role Play
Role playing is a perfect way to practice the skills they have learnt in a safe, non-judgmental environment. It also gives you the chance to provide them feedback, and vice versa. Giving your children the opportunity to observe and reflect on others’ socialising will allow them to understand how certain social skills look to others. With role playing, you can create situations with your child (ie, playing shops, pretending you are getting on the bus etc, or you can use toys to play out scenario. An example of this may be having a teddy bears picnic where the teddies need to share a cake or toy.
3. Discuss Prompts
A common problem for children is getting the conversation started. They may not know how or where to start when they meet new people. Discuss topics that they may use to initiate conversations with their peers, both topics that they know a lot about, and also topics that most people are bound to be interested in – such as hobbies, sport or animals!
4. Emotional Coaching
Children will be better able to form connections when they are capable of keeping their emotional reactions under control. Understanding how to deal with difficult emotions that may arise as a result of social problems, such as disagreements among friends, is an important skill. Children who are able to manage and control these emotions will be more likely to cope with negative events, and be resilient as a result. Speak to your children about feelings in a sympathetic, problem-solving way without trivialising them (i.e. “You’re just being silly”).
5. Foster Empathy
Although you may think empathy occurs naturally in your child, it is not always something that unfolds automatically in every situation. Especially when the other person is of an opposing perspective to your child’s, it may be difficult for them to empathise – because as we all know, children are the centres of their universe! Discuss what it means to understand the way other people feel, and why this is important in our relationships. Describe ways that you try and empathise with people, whether it’s reading people’s emotions, thinking about how you’d feel in their shoes, or understanding why people might react the way they do.
With these 5 easy tips, you can support your child to develop skills needed to socialise and not only make friends, but make long lasting friendships.
If you need some support, or are concerned about your child, The Psych Professionals can support you and your child in developing the above skills, in addition to addressing many other concerns that both parents and kids have. Give us a call today on 07 3801 1772 (Loganholme) or 07 3823 2230 (Capalaba) to make an appointment, or head over to our website here.