To a child, having just one good friend can make a huge difference in how they adjust to the new school year. The saying might be cliche, but when it comes to friends, it’s truly quality – not quantity – that matters.
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, and
- How to manage conflict constructively
To teach these skills to a child, focus on how he or she already makes friends. Specific needs vary from child to child and situation to situation.
Teaching our children how to make friends can also remind us how to be a good friend…
- Observe your child objectively in social settings and compare his/her actions to those of well-liked children.
- Isolate the skill(s) 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 may…
- 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 great sense of humor.
- Be the person that you would want to hang out with.
Once your child establishes friendships, check in with her occasionally to make sure she’s compassionate toward children who are still looking for friends. Remind her of how it felt when she was approaching new people, and encourage her to be welcoming and kind.
Modeling and teaching social skills can take time, and, even as adults, we are all at different levels of learning.