Nothing breaks your heart more than having your child come home from school and say, “Nobody likes me.” The thought of your child sitting alone on the swings during lunch, or walking solo around the playground with her juice box and animal crackers is enough to make you want to go down to the school and bribe some kids to play with her.
But that’s crazy, so we all know you can’t do that.
You can, however, help your child learn how to make friends. Some kids are naturally very social and are skilled at making new buddies. Others are more shy and introspective and are afraid to make the first move. Unfortunately, when you’re shy, it’s really hard for other children to know if you want to be their friend or not.
Here are a few basic tips for helping your child make new buddies.
1. Teach them how to ask questions and be curious about others.
As adults, we know that conversations die pretty quickly if one person says, “Nice day today,” and the other persons just says, “Yup.” The best way to keep a conversation going is to show genuine interest in the other person. Shy kids are likely to just nod or answer with one word, but if you encourage them to just take it one step farther they will be surprised at how effective it is. Try role-playing with your child and talk about different situations that could arise. For instance, if another child comes up and says, “Hey, I have the same backpack,” your child can say something like, “Cool. Where did you get it?” This will keep the conversation flowing. People love to talk about themselves, and when you ask them questions it makes them feel good.
2. Use a person’s name when talking to them.
This is an old trick I learned from Dale Carnegie, author of How to Win Friends and Influence People. He is known to have said that a person’s name “is the sweetest sound.” Our names are the most basic, core representation of our identity. When we hear it from another person, it validates us and makes us feel more connected to the person who said it. Salespeople discovered this long ago, which is why they will often call you by name when they’re pitching to you.
3. Help foster friendships be inviting kids over for a play date at least 3 different times.
Sometimes you need to step in and get the ball rolling. Invite children over to the house that your child is interested in getting to know. Even if your child is too shy to invite them, you can do it through the parents (although only if your children are younger…this would be mortifying to a thirteen-year-old). Have the child over at least three times outside of school so the kids have a chance to develop a bond. Lunch and recess can be chaotic and full of impenetrable cliques, so spending time together away from the masses will help cement a proper friendship that will hopefully continue on the playground.
Making friends is a skill that can be learned, so just keep encouraging your child to take small steps toward being more open and putting himself out there. It will pay off, and he’ll soon have a gang of friends running through your house and eating all your food. :)
Also, a child could be lacking friends due to difficult behaviors like whining or tantrums. If you think this may be the case, or if you just want to solve those issues in your child, check out Kids: The Manual. It’s a child-friendly discipline program designed to help improve behavior in kids ages 2 – 12.
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