Tips for helping a child to make friends

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Most children seem to make friends very easily. They come across people of their own age every day and, without the social barriers that adults seem to set up for themselves, can talk to them far more easily. However, some children are naturally shy and struggle to make friends. If not dealt with at a young age, this can carry through into adulthood. If you are concerned about your child, follow these tips for helping them to make friends.

Enrol them in a class

Children who are shy will probably resent being enrolled in an after-school activity and will do their best to get out of it. However, once they have been a couple of times, they should begin to relax and let their guard down, enabling them to chat more easily. You may feel that you are being cruel in forcing them to do something they don’t want to, but the dividends it will eventually pay will be worth it. This is particularly important if your child is home-schooled.

Talk to their teacher

Make an appointment to meet their teacher and explain that you are concerned. If the teacher shares your concern, there are numerous ways that they can help out. They can, for example, try to keep your child away from the more boisterous children and introduce them to the shyer, quieter ones who your child may have difficulty approaching on their own. The teacher may also have an insight into your child’s behaviour of which you yourself were not aware.

Be socially active yourself

If you do not have a social life yourself, how can you expect your child to? You need to make friends with people who have children of the same age. Enroll in a class and make new friends or become involved in the school where you will meet plenty of parents. If you belong to a church, take part in the social activities. Be an example to your child, broaden your own social life, and as a result, you should have plenty of ways of introducing your child to others.

Introduce them to the neighbours

In the past, neighbourhood children would have plenty of opportunities to mix with one another. Now, parents are less willing to let their children run around without supervision. To ensure that they are not cooped up in their bedrooms, or watching TV and playing games all day, arrange social events with the neighbours, especially those with children. You could invite them round for a barbecue, or simply a coffee; just make sure that the children get to know one another.

Try to find out why they feel so shy

This is perhaps an obvious one, but talk to your child and find out why they are so shy and unconfident. This may take some gentle probing on your part, particularly with children who naturally keep themselves to themselves. However, it can be really helpful. It may be that your child feels they are unattractive or that nobody wants to talk to them because they are stupid. Set their minds at ease. If other children are responsible for these feelings, try to find ways to ensure that your child keeps away from them and meets more like-minded children.

Praise your child

Consider your own behaviour towards your child. Are your expectations so high that your child feels that they can never meet them? Are you always telling them off because they don’t conform to your high standards of cleanliness? Don’t forget that he/she is just a child. They need praise like everyone else. By all means discipline them if they misbehave, but make sure that you find a least one thing about them to praise every day to build up their self-confidence and make friends more easily.

Encourage them to bring friends home

Once your child begins to make friends, encourage him or her to bring them home. Make sure that there is a pleasant environment in your house – if other siblings are likely to embarrass your child, for example, make sure they are out of the way. Take time to chat to your child’s friend to put them at ease, but don’t hover over them. Meet the friend’s parents and encourage regular visits.

Ultimately, you can’t take over your child’s life and you can’t do everything for them. However, if you follow these tips, your child will be on the right tracks to making some new friends, and hopefully, their natural shyness will eventually disappear.

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