How can parents help their child choose friends?
Parents can help children choose the right kinds of friends by modeling appropriate social skills. They can provide a variety of opportunities to play and socialize with other children and get to know their child’s friends. Observe your child’s skills and provide appropriate feedback through casual conversations. Parents can affirm positive skills and build additional skills by role playing with the child.
What if my child is shy?
Parents with an introverted child need to accept their child’s social style. However, there are ways they can help their child learn to make friends. Bring an ice-breaker with you, such as a toy or pet, to help draw kids to your child while visiting a park or other activities. Get your child involved in an activity, small group, or club with other children who have similar interests.
Why is it important for parents to accept their child’s introverted personality and not try to change them or push them to be more outgoing?
Years ago it was believed that children develop a temperament by age three, but children are born with an individual temperament. Some will be naturally outgoing and noisy, while others may be quiet and reserved. Not only does a parent need to consider the child’s temperament, but the child’s activity level. Often quieter children are less active than their boisterous counterparts.
Parents who push their children to become someone they are not increase the children’s stress levels. As children get older, they might begin to question whether their parents want them to be more like them or a sibling.
What are some of the positive friendship skills that parents should affirm and/or teach in their child and what are the best ways to do this?
Role modeling is significant. How parents interact with their children and their children’s friends helps the child learn positive friendship skills. For example, if friends come over, the parent may suggest, “Emily, maybe your friends would like a snack. I can help you.” Over time, offering a snack to friends becomes automatic for your child.
Friendship skills include how to join in with a group already playing, listening and communicating with their friends, demonstrating manners, including others in play, using kind words, letting others have a chance to choose the next game or activity, expressing compassion and empathy, and the delicate dance of give and take.
What if, in observing a play date, a parent notices that another child is not exhibiting positive skills? Should they interfere? If so, what is the best way to do so?
If you are the parent supervising a play date, address both children with a positive reminder. “Our friends like us to use our kind words instead of name calling.” Sitting with the children and interacting with them for a few minutes may also get them back on track.
When other parents are around, play dates can be tricky. Parents can teach children with verbal skills to say what they need. When parents don’t intervene in their child’s misbehavior, your child can stick up for him/herself. “Please stop throwing sand.” Or, “I don’t like it when you take my shovel.” This helps your child develop independence and communication skills.
If your child is younger or does not have the verbal and/or social skills to say what he/she needs, direct your conversation to your child. Again, a reminder often works. “Keep the sand in the sand box.” Often parents will follow your suggestion with their own child. If other parents allow their child to continue behaviors that are harmful to your child, find another area for your child to play. “We’re going home soon, so let’s play on the slide.”
What questions do you have about childhood friendships? I can address the questions in a future blog.