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How can I encourage my child to make friends?

Help your child cope with the ups and downs of friendships


Posted: 3 August 2012
by Kate Donoughue

Don’t overreact If your child has had a bad day, listen sympathetically, but don’t rush in to solve her problems. Tell her that all relationships go through ups and downs. She may say she hates her friend one moment, but next day they’ll be best buddies again.

Encourage empathy Talk about what other children like and don’t like; it may not be obvious to your child yet. Tell her that kind, thoughtful children tend to have more friends, Give her tips on how to fit in with other children. For instance, if she wants to join in a game of "shops", she could offer to be a customer.

Put it in perspective Some children need help to work out the difference between a real put-down and an unintentional slight. Where possible, help your child see a situation from the other person’s point of view. “Sometimes it’s hard to know if children are having serious problems or just experiencing the ebb and flow of friendships,” says US psychologist Dr Eileen Kennedy-Moore. “It’s a good litmus test to ask if your chid has someone to sit with at lunchtime at school, or at snack time at playgroup. If so, you can probably worry less.”

Stay positive “It can really hurt if your child doesn’t get invited to a birthday party,” says Dr Kennedy-Moore. “Help her see the reasons, other than deliberate meanness, why this might have happened. Perhaps there was only space for a few guests?” But avoid saying negative things about the birthday girl; putting other people down won’t help children learn about respect and kindness.

For more tips and advice, read The Unwritten Rules of Friendship: Simple Strategies To Help Your Child Make Friends by Natalie Madorsky and Elman Eileen Kennedy-Moore (Little, Brown and Company, £14.99). 

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