Making friends is an important part of growing up and is a
lifelong gift. What can we parents do to help our children discover the value
of having friends? Or assist a child who is struggling to make friends? Here
are suggestions from Geri Stern who is head instructor with Fun Time, a Parks
and Recreation Program, and has also successfully raised four children.
Friends In The
Start early to introduce the concept of friends. At
age two, children take pleasure in dealing with people. They imitate the action
of others, including siblings. Though your toddler will probably prefer to play
alone with toys, expose him/her to other adults and youngsters.
Around three, children begin parallel play. They
usually feel good about themselves and start to develop the concept of give and
take. Organize a playgroup in your home with mutual friends or consider a
If your child is hesitant about participating in a
group, encourage him/her. Get the child and bring him into the group, staying
Invite a friend over to play. Have planned activities
for part of the playtime -- baking cookies, a game. If going over to someone
else's house is threatening to a young preschooler, go along to bridge the
Young children can be very possessive and unwilling
to share toys. Have a talk before a playmate arrives. Ask what special toys the
child would rather not share. Put those away. Explain that the remainer will
need to be shared.
The Elementary School Years
Elementary children often vie for control and may
find it hard to agree on what to play. I've often used a kitchen timer.
Children take turns determining the play during 20-minute intervals. The guest
has the privilege of going first. When the timer dings, it's the next child's
If disagreements arise during play -- as often
happens -- be there as a consultant only. The children need to work out their
problem. Try to get them to talk through the dilemma and reach a compromise.
Don't single out one child; put the responsibility on both. Say, "I notice that
the two of you seem to be arguing. What can you do to get along better?"
With Low Self-Esteem
A child may come home from school or
play group saying, "No one likes me. No one will play with me." Again, get the
child to talk through the situation. Ask for concrete examples. Be supportive,
acknowledge feelings and help the child move through feelings to change
behavior that can correct the situation. Your child may have personality
conflicts with another child. Explain that in life we all can't have everyone
liking us all the time. What can you do to help the child who truly has few or
no friends? This child may be suffering from a low self-esteem.
Together explore his/her interests and talents.
Enroll child in a class or group activity of his choice.
Ask the teacher for assistance at school. Perhaps
he/she could help the child enter group play or teach others to appreciate the
child by having him/her share a special hobby or talent.
Observe your child during recess or play group to
determine problems and find solutions. If concerns persist, consult a