Children need relationships. They need a variety of types of friendships to learn, succeed and feel strongly about themselves. Actually, we all do. While some kids are naturally talented at taking up a conversation and suddenly having a new best friend, others struggle. Here are 5 tips to help your child make new friends:
Ask your child’s teacher or guidance counselor for suggestions
You’d be astounded at the number of similar calls teachers receive each year. It’s easy to ask, “I’d really like to help Sammy make new friends in his class/that he meshes with/who are on his level/who share interests with him. Can you recommend a few who’s moms I can call and schedule a playdate?” You bet the teacher can! By the end of the first month of school, your child’s teacher has observed your child at play and in learning and has a good grip on who they play nicely with or would play nicely with (oftentimes, the teacher will suggest someone that your child hasn’t quite gotten to know yet. That’s often because they have things in common that they haven’t discovered.) Then call the mom and suggest a playdate on neutral turf– a local playground works great.
Practice playtime with your child
Kids love playtime. So make it a game. Start playing on the floor with your child and say, “let’s pretend I’m a boy at the playground! Let’s play like that!” Then show him how two new friends would meet, introduce each other and play appropriately. (Chances are you’ll make a memory or two during this play session, too!)
Take up a new activity or sport
Sometimes, kids haven’t made great friends yet because they haven’t found people who share a common interest. If your child loves art, enroll him in an art program. If he wants to learn to play soccer, sign up for a clinic or team. As he joins the team or class, he’ll be surrounded by other kids with a similar interest, making it much easier to bridge a common bond that will lead to a friendship.
Put your cell phone away
Yes. You. Next time you’re at the park or bounce house play place, put your cell phone down or, if you can, leave it in the car or at home and focus on your child and how he plays. Does he have play patterns? Does he introduce himself to other kids or stay away from groups. Watch him and learn from his habits, then guide him to play with others.
Sometimes, it’s hardest for a child to make a new friend when Mom or Dad is right there. Your child may feel suffocated or feel that he’s expected to pay attention to you, not the 2 other kids playing in the sandbox. Encourage your child to play with the other children and take a few steps away, sit on a bench and let nature do its thing.