• Helping your child to make friends

  • 16th September 2018
  • Useful tips

  • Learning to form friendships is one of the major developmental tasks of early childhood, and the ability to make and maintain friendships brings lifelong benefits. Childhood friends support children’s social and emotional development and help your little ones adapt more readily to new situations. Adults who have strong friendships are happier and less likely to suffer from stress, anxiety and depression.

    As parents we have a big role to play in teaching our children how to make friends. Take a look at our advice for supporting your child in making friendships at every age. You never know, you might even make some new friends along the way too!

    Pre-school

    Most children begin to form friendships from the age of 3 or 4 so don’t be alarmed if your toddler’s play dates involve more tears and tantrums than smiles and sharing. They are learning important lessons in negotiation and compromise, even if it doesn’t look like it! It is however wise at this stage to stay close enough to step in if and when disagreements get out of hand!

    Helping your pre-school child to make friends is all about providing them with opportunities to socialise. Find a local play group and go along. Encourage your child to join in, but don’t force them – children socialise best when they do it at their own pace. For particularly shy children a more structured class can work well to get them involved and joining in. Find out what’s going on in your local area and choose something that appeals to you both – singing, gymnastics, craft, dance – the possibilities are almost endless!

    At home you can help by working with your child on recognising and naming emotions. Phrases such as ‘I can see you’re feeling cross!’ instead of ‘stop shouting!’ are great for children learning to understand their feelings.

  • Primary school

    As children get older they often become more reluctant to speak to new people. Help your child come up with some ‘getting to know you questions’ so they feel prepared when the opportunity comes up to make a new friend. Conversation openers and compliments such as ‘How do you run that fast?!’ or ‘I really like your lunchbox’ can be great ice breakers.

    At this stage your child is interested in learning about why? Why is the sky blue? Why can’t I have chocolate for breakfast? Why do I have to go to bed? Use this as an opportunity to help them understand the ‘social rules’. Replacing “because I said so” with a conversation about why it’s not kind to point and laugh, for example is much more beneficial for a young inquisitive mind. A child who has learnt why certain behaviours are considered unkind is less likely to repeat them and damage fledgling friendships.

    CBBC have published some more great advice on helping primary school children make friends

    https://www.bbc.co.uk/cbeebies/grownups/help-your-child-make-friends-at-primary-school.

     

    Secondary school

    There can be a lot of pressure for teenagers to have a big group of friends – but this isn’t always the best. Talk to your teen about how quality is more important than quantity when it comes to friendships. It’s easy for teenagers to fall into the trap of believing that school is the only place to meet people, but this doesn’t have to be the case. Look together for clubs or activities that support an existing or new interest  – perhaps there’s a local hockey club or band starting up and needing recruits? There will be plenty of new faces there with a guaranteed shared interest to get the ball rolling.

    The children's society found that teenagers who are happy make friends more easily - and that one of the biggest factors influencing happiness for teenagers is their relationship with their parents. Take the time to switch off the screens and talk to your teenager as often as you can. Find out what’s going on in their world – be patient! It might take some time but when they see that you are genuine they will open up. A final tip; teenagers often struggle with non-verbal communication, especially when talking to new people. Try discussing (and practicing) the importance of eye contact and smiling when talking to people. They may well be amazed at the difference it makes!

    Childline have a great section here on their site aimed at teenagers with lots more hints and tips for making friends.

    Comment below to let us know what has worked for you and your children – or tag us in your play date posts on Instagram @mosnox_kids.

  • "Learning to form friendships is one of the major developmental tasks of early childhood, and the ability to make and maintain friendships brings lifelong benefits."

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