The Blog

As a newspaper columnist, Nancy Devlin, Ph.D. has written over 700 articles on subjects related to education and parenting. Welcome to her Classroom!

Friendships… Parents Need to Teach

If  your child has difficulty making friends, summer may  be
the time to start to do something about it.  Some children, while
not rejected by their peers, are merely neglected by them.  There
are other children who are afraid of new adventures. They find it
difficult to take the risk to seek out a friend.  Both groups  of
children  often  become  solitary and look to  TV  and
computer games as substitutes for real friends.  This can  become
a  problem  for parents and their children since most of  the  TV
programs are not helpful to the developing child.

Some  children  do  not have friends  because  they  do  not
recognize cues from other children that they are doing  something
that  is unacceptable.  One of these cues is facial  expressions.
If  your  child  seems  to have this  problem,  try  showing  him
pictures  of  different facial expressions and  what  they  mean.
Then  help your child not only to recognize them but  to  develop
more  appropriate  ways of responding to  different  expressions.

Parents  can  also supervise and encourage their  child  when  he
attempts to use this new skill.

Some  children  do  not  know how  to  reciprocate  when  an
overture to friendship is made.  There are other children who are
so  fearful  of  being rejected that they  do  not  recognize  an
overture  when  it occurs.  When you see this happening  to  your
child,  give him the words he could use or show him how he  could
offer to share some of his toys with the other child to make  the
child feel accepted as a friend.  You might want to role-play  an
actual  situation  you observed involving your child so  that  he
learns the skills needed to recognize a potential friend.

Very young children who are involved in antisocial  behavior
like hitting, biting and whining should be helped before they  go
to  school.   This behavior will inhibit their  ability  to  make
friends and might make them hate school.  Parents can help  these
children  be  being  very concrete in their  suggestions  and  by
taking  them through a series of steps to practice other ways  to
deal with their frustrations.

Parents can help by modeling behavior necessary to make  and
keep  a friend.  Talk about how much you enjoy your  friends  and
the  effort  you make to keep them.  Encourage your  children  to
work at their friendships.  If they have a fallout with a friend,
help  them  to resolve the problem and to  reconcile  with  their

Children  who  are  cautious  and  have  difficulty  forming
friendships can be helped by joining established groups like  the
boy  or  girl scouts, theater or sport groups  like  soccer.   It
helps  if they can develop a skill that will be admired by  their
peers.   Having  your child join a biking group  formed  by  your
local  bike  store might be a good beginning.  Not  only  is  the
child  making friends, he is exercising his body and learning  to
use his time in active ways rather than being passive by watching

Children in today’s world need a least one friend who  gives
them emotional support.  Some  children have computer friends and
feel  that  is a satisfactory substitute.  It is  not  the  same.
They can cut off computer friends by the flick of a switch.  That
is  not  emotional  support.  It  is  passive  friendship.   True
friendship  requires commitment and give and take.  Children  who
have  acquired this skill live happier lives and seem to  thrive.

I encourage you to help your child to find and to keep a  friend.
It  may  take some effort on your part, but it is  worth  it  and
cannot be left to chance.

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