Wednesday, November 6, 2019

Fitting In: Helping Your Child Find Friends

Parenting Tips on Helping Your Children Make Friends

Does your child have difficulty socializing at school or in the neighborhood? Here are some ways you can help your child make potential lifelong friends....

School may be about education but fostering relationships with classmates and teachers is just as important. When children go to school, the purpose is to not only to learn the concepts of core subjects like math, English and science, but how to interact with others and make friends.
Making friends brings lifelong benefits to children. According to child psychologists, children who make at least one close friend are less likely to be depressed and lonely as adults. Early friendships also help a child develop qualities such as altruism and confidence.

While some children are outgoing and thrive when socializing, others are more introverted and have a harder time making friends. If your child is one of the latter, here are some tips for you to help them form friendships:

Encourage Your Child to Talk About it

Social challenges may be a difficult topic for your children to talk about, but it helps if you encourage them to share their struggles. Give them the time to unload their feelings, then reassure them that you want to help.

Assess the Situation

When your child tells you that they feel they don't have friends, approach the situation objectively. Evaluate the context: has your child moved schools in the middle of the academic year when everyone already has a set of friends? Does your child not join in the games the other classmates play?

Ask your child to give a situation and how they handled it. One of the common reasons why children have a hard time making friends is because of behavior that irritates other children. Your child might have come across as bossy, mean or shy.

Teach Body Language and Social Skills

Children often have a hard time picking up body language, expressions or social cues. Your child might want to hang out with a classmate who feels the constant vying for attention an invasion of their personal space.

Cultural differences might also play a part, especially in an international school. For example, children from the Philippines are more affectionate than, say, their counterparts in Japan.
Explain to your child some important body language and social cues, as well as cultural etiquette. It helps to do some role-playing, so they have a clearer idea of what to do when they encounter a similar situation.

Consider Your Child's Strengths and Interests

Children, especially in their adolescent years, are inclined to want to be friends with the 'cool' classmates. They might also pursue after school activities they may not enjoy so that they can make friends.

Spend time reinforcing their strengths and find activities where they can bond with other children. For example, if your child prefers drawing over sports, find out about an art club in school.

Reach Out to Teachers

Teachers are the best sources of advice and information since they interact with your children most of the day. They are also familiar with what social behavior is normal for children of different ages.

Find out which teacher your child respects and ask them about your child's behavior, interactions and friendships at school. The teacher may also advise who they feel your child could develop a friendship. Some schools appoint class buddies to newcomers to help them settle into class life and the school community.

Similar to how you check your child has done their homework and help them out if they have problems, keeping a check and helping your child if they are struggling socially is an important contribution to their childhood and life skills. By seeking help from their teachers, you can help your child navigate the social challenges they need to understand as they grow up. Who knows: the classmate they sit next to in geography could become their lifelong friend?

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