How to help your child with friendships
June 29, 2021
Good friendships can boost our happiness, self-esteem and provide support when we need it most.
They are also important for a child’s development, helping them to build vital social skills to take with them as they move through life.
If you’re looking for advice on helping your child with friendships, we’ve got some tips for encouraging healthy relationships and how to support them when things go wrong.
How to help your child make friends at school
Children learn by watching, listening and practising. If your child finds making friends difficult, try these tips to help them find their feet.
Observe their social interactions
Do they behave similarly to how they do at home or do they appear anxious in social situations? Do they keep to themselves or are they happy joining in and playing with other children? Understanding how your child behaves in these social situations will make it easier for you to help them and spot where they need some extra support.
Lead by example
One of the ways your child learns is by watching you interact with others. This is all part of how they learn to develop their own friendships. If you can approach people and chat with confidence, they are more likely to feel comfortable speaking to new people.
Chat at home
The more practice they can get talking about a wide range of subjects, the more confident they’ll feel chatting to other children. You could even spend time role-playing, asking each other questions about yourselves before a big social event like a birthday party. Try to demonstrate ‘active listening’ such as nodding or asking follow-up questions and encourage your child to do the same.
Don’t dismiss feelings
Talking to your child when they’re feeling down can help them understand how to regulate and manage their emotions – something they can take with them into their friendships.
If your child is anxious about meeting new children, starting off in the deep end at a school disco may not be the best introduction to socialising. Try a one-on-one play date at home with a child they feel comfortable with to ease them in.
Encourage your child to try new things
The more they keep to themselves, the harder it will be when it comes to branching out. Whether it’s swimming lessons or craft club – look out for opportunities where they can meet others with similar interests.
Don’t beat yourself up!
Every child (and adult) is different when it comes to social skills. Not all of us are outgoing party animals with hundreds of friends! While some children might thrive in big friendship groups, others are much more comfortable seeing a few, close friends and either option is absolutely fine.
Look for help
If your child’s social anxiety is preventing them from enjoying their interests and hobbies it may be worth seeking professional help from a child psychologist or counsellor. Likewise, if they are experiencing ongoing problems with their friendship group, talk to their school to get a better insight into what’s going on.
Don’t push it
And finally, you can’t hold their hand forever! At some point, they are going to have to make their own way. All you can do is give them the tools to be a good friend and encourage them to enjoy their independence safely.
Is your child struggling with friendships?
Some children find making friends more tricky than others.
Finding a group of friends with similar interests and ideas can take a little more time and effort for children with autism, ADHD or other learning needs.
One way to help them make connections is to try small group tutoring. Not only can this help them achieve their academic goals, but it can also have a positive impact on their communication skills.
Find out how we support learning with a disability.
Conversation starters for children
For some children, it might help to practise introducing themselves and starting a conversation at home before a social situation. You can make this feel natural by doing it in play. Suggest to them ‘Let’s play schools or let’s play birthday parties’. Use these conversation starters to get practising…
- My name is….what’s yours?
- I like your trainers! Where did you get them?
- This game looks fun, can I join in, please?
- What’s your favourite….food, TV programme..?
Books and resources on friendships
Find more help on supporting and improving your child’s relationships with these books;
- Kindness is my Superpower: A children’s Book About Empathy, Kindness and Compassion (for ages 4+)
- A Friend for Henry, Jenn Bailey and Mika Song (for ages 5+)
- Bad Girls, Jacqueline Wilson (ages 8+)
- Billionaire Boy, David Walliams (ages 9+)
Games are another way of building up social skills. Taking turns and knowing when to let another person make their move is all part of a balanced friendship!
Spotting signs of bullying
If you notice that your child is quieter than usual, is anxious about going to school or is acting differently than normal, you may want to check in with them to see if everything is OK.
Common child friendship problems
Here are some common friendship issues that can occur among school-age children…
- Gossiping or rumour spreading
- Leaving someone out
- Bossy relationships
If your child tells you they’re being bullied or their friends aren’t being kind to them, the first thing to do is listen and let them know that you support them.
Here are some more resources to help;
- NSPCC has a wide range of anti-bullying resources, including podcasts
- Kidscape offers PDFs and videos for parents on bullying awareness
- Bullying UK has lots of articles offering advice to parents
It’s also a good idea to speak to their school to get an action plan in place.
If bullying is happening online, help them take a break from their devices, remove contacts or apps as appropriate, set time limits and remove phones and tablets from their rooms before bedtime so that it does not affect their sleep.
How to teach your child to be a good friend
Friendship works both ways. In order to have happy and fulfilling relationships, your child also needs to understand how to be a good friend.
Self-confidence, trust and emotional intelligence are all building blocks for friendship and should be nurtured through modelling, talking and sharing feelings.
Here are some essential skills to instil;
- How to apologise – it’s not always easy admitting when you’re wrong about something, but it’s important to know when and how to say sorry. Try to emphasise that as well as saying sorry, it can help to do something nice for a friend to show them you’re trying to make amends.
- Knowing when to forgive – equally, knowing when to forgive a friend is just as important for maintaining friendships.
- Compromise – whether it’s choosing a game to play or deciding whose house to visit, a friendship requires a little give and take!
- Cooperation – practising collaborative tasks like making dinner together as a family can help them understand the importance (and joy!) of working together.
- Empathy and understanding – seeing things from other points of view is vital when it comes to forging and maintaining relationships. Encourage positive behaviour by praising shows of kindness.
Making friends after lockdown
The recent lockdowns and time off school have made making friends a little harder. If your child feels more anxious about socialising as they go back to school, this is completely normal. It can take a while to adjust after spending so much time in the comfort of home.
Looking for a safe and engaging place for your children to make new friends and flourish? Our in-Centre tuition courses offer small group tutoring that goes beyond the curriculum and helps young people connect, grow in confidence and thrive!
Book your free tuition trial to find out how it could work for your family.
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