The ability to make friends is a crucial life skill. Some kids have no problems expanding their social circles. They are excellent at making and keeping pals. There are others, who are loners and feel shy about making the first move.
Making and keeping friends essentially depends upon 3 aspects that include conversational skills, interpersonal skills, and emotional self-control. Having good friends is important for cognitive and social development. It’s fun indeed, but it also nurtures qualities of cooperation, understanding of other’s emotions, and developing patience to wait for your turn.
Parents can help by gently encouraging social interactions. The bottom line is to furnish opportunities for productive social experiences that leave your child desiring for more, rather than feeling pressurised to establish bonds. Here are a few tips to promote a positive experience.
1. Keep the First Interaction Small
Ask your child whom he likes to spend time with, in the school or neighbourhood. Commence by inviting one or two prospective friends home. Keep the initial meeting small, ranging from one to two hours. Yes, this might amount to the friend leaving just when the play gains momentum; but it’s best to disperse before the kids end up fighting and your effort goes waste.
2. Prior Planning Helps
It is cardinal to plan the play date well in advance so that the interaction turns out to be fruitful. Make sure there are sufficient toys and games so that the kids are not expected to share right away. Orient the meeting around activities your child is good at and enjoys playing. Such planning will elevate his confidence and enhance interest.
3. Your Involvement is Required
Never leave the children to themselves entirely. Make sure you are available if the kids lose interest in the activity, require a change, or get distracted. Your intervention may be necessary at this stage as prolonged inactivity leads to conflicts. Suggest new options that interest the children.
Remember to maintain a balance between taking complete control and just breaking the ice without dominating.
4. Get Going
Keep a tab on the way such play dates go with different children. Decipher whom your child prefers to play with and organise regular play dates on a weekly basis. When you feel things are moving well, take a step further by arranging meetings at the playground. Gradually, you could also promote independence by letting your child play in someone else’s house for a short duration.
5. Call Your Friends Over
Children emulate adult behaviour. You can model rewarding social interactions by having your friends over. The best would be to call friends who have kids in similar age group. However, don’t push the situation too hard because things may backfire despite your good intentions. Too much pressure to interact can fuel insecurity, and your kid may clam up further.
6. Be an Emotional Coach
Just as it is vital to help kids make friends, it is crucial to teach them to maintain their relationship as well. We all have selfish impulses but to keep friends we need to check these emotions. Talk to your kids about problem solving and empathy. Teaching them to regulate their emotions will strengthen bonds.
Teach your kids to converse politely. Promote their active listening skills. It is essential to give your friend a chance to talk.
7. Let Them Figure It Out
In the initial years, kids require close supervision. As they grow, you need to step back. Hovering over your children continually robs them of the opportunity to develop social skills. However, bullying is the only exception to this rule. You must intervene and prevent bullying.
Being an introvert and taking time to make friends is not a bad characteristic. Avoid the instinct of altering your child’s personality. Instead, help her stretch the limits so that she can discover the unsurpassable joy of relationships with peers.