When children struggle to make friendships it can be tough on the whole family. Whether it’s the lack of invites to parties or seeing your child sitting alone in the playground, friendship problems can spark huge anxiety for parents.
All children have friendship blips from time to time and remember that your child’s limited friendships are only a problem if your child is unhappy.
Some children are perfectly content having just one friend or spending a lot of time on their own. Here are some tips to help encourage friendships and deal with problems if they arise.
If your child tells you that other children won’t let them play, or shares other worries about friendships, listen and accept their feelings. Don’t play down their fears – they are real to your child. Acknowledge them and guide them towards solutions.
Whether your child is having difficulties with friendships due to being quiet and reserved or overly boisterous and controlling, be careful about labelling your child. Labels such as bossy or shy can be very self-fulfilling and may put your child in a role you want to avoid. Encourage the positives rather than dwelling on negative traits.
Children learn from watching others so your behaviour can inadvertently influence how your child interacts with other children. For example, if you feel anxious in social situations, you may find your child is also nervous. Try role modelling to demonstrate how to act in social situations. Skills such as holding a conversation and basic social rules like sharing belongings, being considerate and compromising can all be role-modelled in daily life. Role modelling can also be combined with role play with your child to help them practise these skills.
Arrange supervised play dates
It can be easy to want to avoid having friends over if there are problems, but this provides little opportunity for children to practise social skills. Try to ask friends that may help boost skills and supervise play to keep things on track. If you spot disagreements brewing remember to act quickly to prevent problems escalating and it becoming a negative experience.
Praise positive behaviour
Offer lots of descriptive praise when your child displays social skills you want to encourage and back these up with rewards if necessary. Gentle encouragement will support your child to develop confidence in social environments.
For more info
Community Family Care, based at Staunton, Gloucestershire helps families, children and young people in need of additional support. It seeks to improve parents’ confidence, help with routines to get children to school, or more complex support dealing with challenging behaviours at home. The work its staff carry out includes peer mentoring and life coaches for young people, and family support programmes.
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