Are you worried that your child is having trouble making friends? Perhaps he or she walks out of the school gate alone each day or talks of trouble finding other children to play with at lunchtime.
It’s important to remember that like so many aspects of your child’s development, friendship is a learned skill. Just like learning to play the piano or ride a bike, practice helps children learn how to interact with other children and make friends.
The long-term benefits of friendship are many. Through friendships, children learn to relate to others and foster a sense of belonging to a group – skills that will continue to serve them into adulthood. Plus, children with friends are more self-confident and perform better academically at school than those without friends.
But friendships are not always easy. Your child may find it difficult to share their favourite toy or listen to another child’s instructions during a game in the playground. Children who are bossy, aggressive or unable to say sorry can be difficult to get along with.
The good news is that there’s a lot parents and carers can do to help children make friends. You are one of the most powerful influences in your child’s life, so make the most of it, and remember that children are learning social skills through their relationship with you and from watching how you relate to other people.
You can also promote positive social skills:
- Teach your child to smile and say thank-you when another child lends them a toy.
- Plan a fun game for when your child invites a friend over for a play date.
- Talk to your child about their friends and any problems they might be having – this helps children feel supported and encourages resilience.