Whatever the circumstance might be, such as a different school or neighbourhood, making new friends is often a stressing challenge for children, especially those of school age. Children have a special need for and a propensity to forming relationships, principally with people outside of the family – it’s one of the many ways they learn to become individuals. Helping children make friends is also tricky for parents; knowing when to help, how to get involved, or what to tell the children are key elements to being an effective coach.
While parents cannot make friends for their children, they can offer tips and guidance to help them along the journey. Often, the most difficult time for children to make friends is when they are at school without direct parental involvement. The following guidelines are great ones to consider:
Teach children about friendship and set a good example for them to follow
- Explain that friendship is a close relationship between people who share common likes and dislikes.
- Interact with your own friends in a positive and kind way, knowing that your children will model your behaviour.
- Introduce yourself to people in front of your children so they learn how to be interactive and sociable with others.
Assist children in making friends by setting the stage for them
- Find outlets for your children frequented by their peers, such as church groups, sports teams, the Y, parks and recreation programs, and safe online chat groups.
- Help them fit into the local culture by providing them with things that are popular, such as clothing styles or haircuts. There is no need to overspend on this one.
- Let your children host a small, informal party and invite a selection of kids from their neighbourhood and their school.
Give your children some “friendship pointers,” such as:
- Be a loyal friend; never desert old friends for new ones.
- Accept people as they are; always be yourself, not what your friend wants you to be.
- Be a good listener; friends rely on trustworthy friends.
- Defend a friend’s honour; don’t gossip or spread rumours about him or her.
Share hints about how to communicate when making friends
- Use positive body language to show friendliness.
- Make smiling a habit and laugh often
- Make eye contact
- Start the conversation by asking a question or giving a compliment.
- When speaking, be confident but not arrogant or mean-spirited.
- Remember names. Learn to develop an “association” technique (Mary = my aunt’s name).
In inconspicuous ways, help your children make friends
- Get involved in school or neighbourhood clubs and activities, because every parent you meet also allows “new friend” opportunities for your children.
- Arrange some after-school time that will introduce your children to their peers.
- Encourage, but don’t push the children into friendships; respect their social styles.
- Communicate; talk to your children about their progress in making friends.
- Get to know their friends; form an association with their friends’ parents.
- If something doesn’t feel right about particular friendships your children have, investigate and take action. Friendships are sometimes “one-sided.”
To have a friend, one has to be a friend, according to an old saying. Understanding what friendship is and knowing how to be selective when making and keeping friends, is paramount to having a “BFF” or friends for life. Parents, church members, school personnel, and the peers of your children set examples for being a friend and making a friend, so make an effort to situate your children in positive environments that foster friendships. Doing that, in addition to employing the above guidelines, will get your children off to a good start with making new friends.