Every kid wants to have friends, but making friends is easier for some children than it is for others. Parents can help their kids by helping them to learn the skills needed to make friends as well as by providing them with opportunities to interact with other children.
Getting Them Together
In order for children to make friends, they need to be put into situations where they will meet other children. Child care centres or play groups work well for young children, and older children make friends at school or in their neighbourhood. Being actively involved in an assignment or project fosters friendships – especially for shy children, who may have a hard time approaching other kids. Many kids feel more comfortable when they are busy, so by keeping them involved in activities with other kids, the pressure is diminished and they can relax a bit.
Don’t Overwhelm Them
If you want to help your shy child to form friendships, try not to thrust them into situations that make them feel extremely uncomfortable. Plan play dates, but keep the group small and plan for the get together to last a short while. Invite one or two children over to your house to play for an hour or two – if they have a great time together, you can plan another date, but if not, the children aren’t unhappy for an entire afternoon. Also, try to plan an activity that your child already enjoys. When children are feeling confident they are more likely to feel at ease.
Break the Ice
Shy kids may need a bit of help getting a conversation started, so make it a point to be available, if you are needed. You don’t want to hover and monopolize the conversation, but helping to oversee activities can give you the opportunity to keep things light.
Practice Makes Perfect
Make the time to play with your children – not only will it give you an idea about areas in which they may be struggling socially, but it gives the children the chance to “practice” their social skills. By interacting with them, they will enjoy increased confidence in their ability to handle social situations. With little children, you can pretend to be in school, at the park, or in a restaurant and switch roles with them, sometimes being the person who wants to make a new friend and sometimes being the person who is approached. These skills come naturally for some kids, but many children need a little help to understand how to make friends.
Here are a few things to keep in mind as you help your child to form friendships:
- It is fine if your child has 1 or 2 good friends, rather than a large group of buddies.
- Expect some conflict – children learn how to handle disagreements by having a few now and then.
- If your child is being teased or bullied at school, talk to the teacher for assistance.
- Encourage participation in athletics or other group activities. Children will naturally gravitate towards others with similar interests.
More than Shy
While most shy children are well within the range of normal, occasionally, a child has an exceptionally hard time dealing with other people. If your child seems exceedingly shy, so much so that they avoid social interaction as much as possible, it may be time to ask the advice of your pediatrician. Some children suffer from social phobias, which are treatable.