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

How to Help Your Child to Make Friends

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

TV and playing computer games.
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.

Posted in Behavior, From Experience, Getting the Most For Your Child, Parenting | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

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