How to help your child make friends

Kids have different personalities. Some of them like the attention and enjoys the company of other kids while other kids prefer playing alone without interacting with others. But how exactly can you help your kid come out of his/her shell and overcome shyness and the fear of interacting with others? Here are TDB’s expert recommendations on how you can help your kid make friends.

The Daily Brunch recently got an email from a worried mother named Sarani Ghoshal from West Bengal. The letter goes like this. “My kid Adarsh is six years old and is quite good at studies. But he has no friend at school or in the neighborhood. His teachers complain that he is always aloof from his classmates. I am very worried about this. Can you suggest me some tips so that I can help him make friends?”

Dear Sarani, making friends is an essential part of childhood. Apart from the sheer joy and fun, friendship also helps your kid develop such important social skills as the ability to converse with others, enjoy mutual cooperation, checking their emotional misbalance, moral-reasoning and so on. However, some children are inherently a bit shy and reluctant to make friends. That’s it. So, do not think that there is something seriously wrong with your kid. If your kid does not take initiative to make friends on his own, then it is up to parents to help him take initiative. Once he experiences the sheer fun of having friends, then he will naturally come out of his shell and take initiative to interact and make friends with other kids. If your child has a sibling, try to help them make friends with each other.  The primary reason for sibling rivalry is the lack of friendship between siblings. However, make sure that the kids do not limit their friendship to their siblings only.  Sometimes, the overprotectiveness of parents can also turn out to be a reason for the kid’s reluctance to reach out to other kids. Remember, you cannot keep your kid under your protective wings forever. He needs to go out and explore the world, as he grows older. So inculcate the habit of socializing and making friends right from childhood onwards.

First of all, convince your kid about the importance of making friends. You can tell him stories or help him watch movies that emphasize the joy of making friends. After watching movies or telling stories, make it a point to tell him how the story or the movie describes the joy of making friends. In this way, you can effectively motivate them. Holly Hobbie’s ‘Toot and Puddle: You are My Sunshine’, ‘Days with Frog and Toad by Arnold Lobel’ and ‘George and Martha: The Complete Stories of Two Best Friends’ by James Marshell are some of the best stories about friendship that you can read out to your little one in connection with your attempts to motivate them to make friends.  Once your child is properly motivated, you can begin the next phase which is helping him shake of his shyness. More often than not, it is the shyness factor that pulls the child back from talking to other kids and making friends with them. The primary thing that you need to do in this respect is to develop his conversational skills. Encourage him to wish his students in school by saying ‘good morning’, or ‘saying hello’. If you are in a party, motivate your kid to introduce himself or herself to other kids. Do not think that the kids will always be pro-active in talking to others, especially if the child is a bit shy. This is where your role as a parent comes in. You can help him phrase sentences that will help him introduce himself and nudge him to repeat it. For example, tell the kid to say ‘say hi to John’ or ‘ask him what his name is’. This help will be of tremendous relief to the shy kid to come out of his introvert nature.  This will surely help the kid develop a bond with them.

Remember the basic thing in this regard should be done at the family itself.  Do you have a family friend who has a child of the same age as yours? Then you can plan occasional trips to their home. Organize some games so that your kid can participate, thereby making a strong bond with the other kid. If your kid is hesitant to interact with his play-mate, you can initially act as a link between your kid and his playmate.  “If you promote a positive experience, your child is more likely to want to play again,” says Dale Walker, a professor of child development at the University of Kansas in Lawrence. Sometimes you can also host parties at your home for the kids of your friends or relatives or neighbours. In these parties that you throw for your kid’s friend, help him play the role of a host. Encourage your kid to invite his friends to your home on his own.  And, motivate him to ask after other kids when they come to your house.  In this way, they will bond as they spend a good time with each other.  This exercise will not only help your kid make friends with other kids, but also develop his organizational skill. If your child has an extracurricular interest like painting or dancing, get him enrolled in a coaching class. When children with the common interest get together, they will naturally make friends with each other.  Children are more likely to quarrel with each other and break the friendship. In such cases, do not turn a blind eye to it. Rather, ask your kid to phone him or meet him personally to make up. Even though making-friends is an important aspect of growing up, make sure that you do not overwhelm your kid with too many social occasions. You should also mind his preferences in choosing his friends. If you find that your kid is not comfortable with some of his playmates, do not force him to befriend him. If your child feels that he is made to make friends, all your efforts may fizzle out. The child may be already insecure so that the pressure that you mount on the kids may make him jittery. Hope, these tips will come in handy for you to help your kid make friends. Let our kids make friends and socialize.