Learning how to make friends is not always easy for children. It is very common for children to go through stages where they may not feel comfortable meeting new people. While this is natural, there are ways that parents can help their children to learn effective and appropriate ways to interact with their peers.
Encourage your child to try to make one new friend. You can help your child to reach out to new people in their age group by:
- Reading stories about friends and talking about the importance of friends and how they play a positive role in the lives of the characters in the story. This can also be a great time for parents to talk about their friendships and some of the challenges they may have had when they were younger with trying to make new friends.
- Talk about how to have a conversation. This could include role playing where one parent pretends to be the other child. Encourage your child to follow the conversation, ask questions about what you say, and be encouraging and supportive of the communication.
- Brainstorm a list of interesting “conversation starters” to help your child have something to talk about when he or she meets new people. Give the child an opportunity to practice how these conversations might go and help them to anticipate and respond to questions.
- Host a play date in your where your child might feel more comfortable. Limit the invitation to no more than one or two peers and try to choose activities that your child enjoys and is good at to help build his/her confidence.
- Try inviting a friend to a trip to the park or even a picnic in the backyard. Providing your child with a comfortable environment to start a conversation can make it much less stressful.
Remember, every children is unique, and some children are somewhat more reserved than others. Encourage friendship but don’t force it. Your child may just need a bit more time to become more comfortable interacting with others.