When I was a young child, my family had a record player. I was allowed to play some of the records all by myself, but not my mother's original “Meet the Beatles.” One record had a song I used to listen to over and over. It was about a lonely child who wanted to play with a friend. I used to feel so sad for that child who didn't have a friend to play with. Making friends is something all children need to learn how to do. You can help your child navigate this important social skill with the help of these six friendship tips.
Find kids with common interests
Some children make instant friends. Others may need a common bond to start a friendship. Help your child find children with similar interests. My son has friends he invites over just to play video games, and others he enjoys doing outdoor sports with. Although children don’t need to have everything in common with friends, one or two shared interests offer a natural starting point for a new friendship.
Go places where kids are
Neighbors often make convenient friends, but not every neighborhood is teeming with children. My street is short on kids, so we often have to make playdates or go where kids are. Parks and school playgrounds are great places to meet kids. Indoor playgrounds, recreation centers and community centers will also have plenty of kids around. We’ve made a lot of friends through church children’s groups and by attending regularly so we can get to know families.
Talk about how to be a good friend
Children are just learning to navigate social relationships. They may sometimes be selfish, insisting on certain toys or to play games according to their rules. It’s up to parents to teach children how to be good friends. Having ongoing conversations and modeling good friendships will help. When your child has a disagreement with friends, or feels left out, use these difficult times as an opportunity to teach your child how to be a better friend and include others. Here are more waysto teach your child how to be a good friend.
Invite children over
I am always interested in meeting my children’s friends. As such, I am willing to have children over to play at my house. Inviting friends over to play will allow you to see how your child interacts with his or her friends. You will also be able to provide activities and promote friendships in a positive way.
If your child is having a hard time making friends, consider activities as a place for enrichment and friendship. Participating with other kids in activities like gymnastics and sports teams often sparks friendships. If your school has after-school activities like clubs, enroll your child. My daughter takes an art class with another girl from her class at school. My son looks forward to seeing his friends at Boy Scouts every week, since he doesn’t attend school with them.
Know your neighborhood kids
Having a neighborhood full of children can make facilitating friendships easy, but it can also pose a few challenges. Try to meet the families in your neighborhood so you know who your children are playing with. Unfortunately, children sometimes make bad choices, and not all parents are attentive. I always supervise my children when they are playing outside and make sure they are in a safe environment. My daughters like to hear the knock on the door when their neighborhood friend comes to play, and I feel secure because I know his family well.
Friends are invaluable. They bring love and joy to life. Friends will be an important part of your child’s life from the time they are old enough to play with others. Help your child make friends and be a good friend and you will give him a precious gift.
Amy M. Peterson, a former high school English teacher, currently lives in Oregon with her husband and four children. She spends her days writing, reading, exercising and trying to get her family to eat more vegetables.