You can’t be there all the time to help your child make friends, so how can you
support them? Here are a few things to try.
If your child complains that they have been left out, or someone has been horrible to them at school, listen and let them talk.
Then see if they can come up with the answers to the problem themselves rather than you always offering a solution. It can be so tempting to try and ‘fix’ it, no one wants to see their child unhappy, but try and get them to come up with their own ideas for what to do if the difficult situation happens again. Encourage them to try it out, and check in with how they got on. You can’t be there for them when they are at school, but supporting their self- esteem at home and making time for a child who is struggling with friendships can go a long way towards building resilience.
If your child lacks social skills support them with this at home.
For young children. Use role play eg with puppets, teddies, lego figures etc. Get the figures to be gentle, kind, polite, rough, bossy, shy etc. and chat about these qualities with your child eg ‘how do you think Rabbit feels when he is too shy to play, what do you think he should do?’ or ‘If Lego man is too rough what might happen?’
Adapt the same ideas for older children, so instead of playing with toys you might watch TV or a film together, and talk about the way the characters interact with each other, or talk to them about your own experiences, most of us have experienced friendship issues either in childhood or our adult life.
Give children plenty of opportunities to socialise.
Take them to the park, swimming, and other places where there will be lots of children so they have the opportunity to talk to people they don’t know; help them if they hang back, by role modelling good social skills yourself, but don’t pressure. Praise any good social skills you see. Encourage your child to do out of school activities and clubs such as Cubs, Brownies, football etc.
For young children organise play dates, get to know other parents in the area by going to groups or chatting at the school/nursery gate etc
When my son went to a new school at the age of six, he took a while to settle.
I asked him recently what had helped (he is 18 now) and he said that having some sort of connection with other children outside of school eg. playing at the local park, and going to cubs both helped, and it was also helpful when I chatted to the mums of other children in his class as that gave him a connection. He did settle eventually and is now firm friends with many of those children who seemed so unfamiliar to him all those years ago.
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