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Social connections are important for children’s growth and development. Some children have a hard time fitting in and making friends, and these kids may just need a little extra help fostering friendships.
Decades of research indicates that parents play a key role in teaching children how to make friends. But some parents may be concerned before they need to be.
Eileen Kennedy-Moore, a clinical psychologist and author, says that parents begin to be concerned about whether their kids are making friends before it becomes an issue for the children. Psychologist Fred Frankel, author of the book, “Friends Forever: How Parents Can Help Their Kids Make and Keep Good Friends,” says girls may have a harder time making friends because of the cliques that can form among them.
Children often become conscious about friends around age 7, say experts. Both sexes can struggle making friends between elementary and junior high because of the many changes, including puberty, that occur during this period in their lives. The following are some ways parents and other caregivers can help youngsters to make friends more readily.
Invite friends over and be a good host
Children can initiate social opportunities through their parents. The play date is a great way to introduce kids to other children in a comfortable setting. Parents can help model good host/hostess behavior, which includes putting guests before oneself and paying attention to friends being entertained.
Find fun activities
Kids often make friends when socializing with other kids who share common interests. Parents can facilitate this by signing children up for sports teams, clubs or taking them to play groups.
Shy kids may have difficulty greeting others. Parents can help kids practice making eye contact, smiling, engaging in conversation, and other techniques as they are applicable to the child’s situation and personality.
Parents can be friends
Sometimes childhood friendships develop when kids are brought together through their own parents’ friendships. This can be helpful if everyone gets along. But parents should not force the situation or sacrifice their own relationships if their children and their friends’ children no longer get along.
Be supportive but not too involved
Children need to learn to find their own way. Parents can be a sounding board, but they shouldn’t meddle too much. So long as bullying or hurtful behavior is not present, letting kids work things out is often the best bet.
Parents can help their children make friends by setting up social opportunities and being good role models.