By Julia Cook
To a child, having just one good friend can make a huge difference in how they adjust to the new school year.
It’s truly not the quantity of friends that matters… it’s the quality.
You can help your children become better at making and keeping friends by teaching them three basic friendship social skills:
- How to break the ice with kids they haven’t met before.
- How to act positively with others.
- How to manage conflict constructively.
To teach these skills to a child, focus on how he already makes friends. Specific needs vary from child to child and situation to situation. Here are a few tips:
- Observe your child objectively in social settings and compare his/her actions to those of well-liked children.
- Isolate the skill(s) that your child needs to work on. For example, does she continually interrupt others, or always try to “be the boss?” Does he act aggressively toward other children, or cry or pout when things don’t go his way? Is your child excessively shy and quiet, reluctant to join a group, or afraid to try new activities?
- Explain the needed skill to her in detail. Relate the skill to their world-view by attaching it to a personal experience (i.e. when I was your age….) Demonstrate how to effectively use the skill by role-playing.
- Set up a safe, critical free, environment that allows your child to practice the skill.
- Give constructive feedback – always start by telling her what she is doing right. Remember to teach…not criticize. (You will always get more bees with honey, than you will with vinegar.)
- Explain to your child that in order to have friends, he needs to know how to be a good friend. A good friend will…
- Look out for welfare others.
- Learn how to place others wants and needs ahead of his own.
- Be willing to share their hopes and dreams with others.
- Laugh and have fun!
- Be a sincere, understanding listener.
- Be respectful of others.
- Go out of their way to do nice things for others.
- Show genuine empathy.
- Do what they can to help others feel good about themselves.
- Have a strong sense of self-worth.
- Develop a strong sense of humor.
- Be the person that you would want to hang out with.
Finally, remember you need to be patient. Teaching friendship social skills will never be as easy as it sounds, and we are all at different levels of learning. Making Friends is an ART! – So get out the paints and plan on using lots of paper!
Julia Cook, (www.juliacookonline.com) a former teacher and school counselor, has received the Association of Educational Publishers – Distinguished Achievement Award. The National Parenting Center and Mom’s Choice Awards have honored her books.