Friendships enhance all areas of our lives. Having that special someone that you can go to anytime who will make time for you and listen to your concerns is priceless. Forging those types of relationships when kids are young will serve them well throughout their elementary school years, teen years, and as they leave home to attend college. Try these tips to help your youngsters create and maintain new connections:
Where can your kids meet new friends?
- If you have moved to a new community or if your kids are changing schools enroll them into a class, club or activity where they can enjoy their favorite sport or hobby. Sports teams and clubs are a great place to meet new kids with similar interests. Volunteering to be a club or team helper can also help you connect with parents and help build that social bridge with your child.
- Walking the dog can provide opportunities to meet new people in your neighborhood. Kids love dogs and other kids will often come up and break the ice. Take your route by a dog park or local park to connect with families that are also pet owners.
- Host a BBQ or pizza night and invite school and neighborhood families who have children your kids’ age. Meeting new people in your home offers a safe sanctuary for the shy child.
- Go to kids gathering places; playgrounds, local ice cream or candy shop, pools and beaches in the summertime, skating rinks and ski hills in the wintertime. Kids typically will often naturally start playing with one another just by being in an environment that’s conducive to doing so.
How can my child build a friendship?
- Kids learn to build friendships by watching the behavior their parents model. Teach them about open ended questions to help keep conversation moving along. Model being sincerely interested in what the other person is sharing. Practice these skills at the dinner table.
- Help them discover how to find commonality with others. This may involve self-disclosure. Being able to confidently share relevant facts about themselves will help other kids open up to them as well.
- Teach them to be good listeners. Good listeners don’t interrupt when others are talking and they give signs like a head nod or an occasional “uh-huh” to show they are tuned in.
How can my child be a good friend?
- Talk to your child about what it means to be a good friend. Help them practice those traits at home. Being a good friend will make others seek them out to be their friend.
- Friendships take time and effort to grow. Just like watering a garden. Help your kids invest in positive relationships and help them weed out the not-so-positive ones.
- All relationships come with squabbles. Teach your child how to be gracious when it comes to forgiveness. Most infractions are unintentional; it’s just a part of growing up. Help your child to be responsible for his own actions and be able to offer a humble apology when needed.
Building and maintaining friendships takes time and effort. Kids will follow a parent’s lead by watching and modeling the friendships they have. Take special care to tend to your friendships so you can be a positive role model. Help them make friendships a priority by inviting kids into your home and make them feel welcome. Create a haven kids will want to spend time in. Building an atmosphere of acceptance will encourage your children’s friendships to blossom and grow.