Helping children navigate their social environment can be challenging terms of developing self-initiation, advocacy, and flexibility skills. What is your role as a parent in facilitating the development of your child’s new friendships?
How to Help Your Child Find the Right Friends:
- Have your child develop a list of “friend criteria” that a peer has to meet to be considered a friend. For example, “friend criteria” may include nice, kind, asks questions of others, is respectful, and is inclusive. This helps your child differentiate levels of intimacy between peers that are classmates, acquaintances, friends, and even best friends. When a child can determine positive qualities in a peer that meet his list, he can begin to ask these individuals to have playdates and increase exposure to enhance the level of intimacy. On the contrary, if a child is referring to a peer as a “friend” but this individual is not nice or exclusive of your child, this check list will help him see what a friend should be.
- Role-play scenarios with your child about how to initiate with another child in social situations. Develop several examples of conversation starters and follow up questions to enhance your child’s confidence when engaging with peers. Utilizing the “friend criteria” will also help your child discern if a peer is worthy of continual approaching depending out the outcomes of these initiations (i.e. if your child asks a peer to play but that peer continues to say no, teach your child to identify other peers they can play with since this individual does not meet their description of “friend criteria”).
- Teach your child age-appropriate communication and self-advocacy skills when expressing his needs to friends. Arming your child with calm and direct verbal and non-verbal skills can help them accurately express their thoughts and feelings to peers as well as handle any conflict that may arise.
As a parent, try to teach your children the skills to be the friends they are seeking. If a child is kind, communicative, inclusive, and compassionate, they can begin to recognize similar qualities in others.