As a parent to seven kids, I know as well as anyone that developing friendships is very important for children, but it is not always the easiest thing to do. Every child is different: some are outgoing and some are shy.
When helping or teaching your child to develop friendships, it’s important to teach the four following rules. These four rules have worked for my children in the past, and I hope they’ll work for you, too.
Give a Compliment: Explain to your child what a compliment is, how to give a compliment and how to receive one. Ask your own child if they like receiving compliments and why. If your child tells another child, “I like your purple shoes.” Or “Your car lunchbox is really neat.” It’s going to allow the two children to make a connection, share in their mutual “like,” appreciation and similar taste, and most importantly, they’ll begin to develop a friendship. Giving a compliment is also a great opportunity to open up a new line of conversation, as the child being complimented will likely continue talking after saying “thank you”.
Share: Sharing is caring, right? Teaching your child how to share at a young age is very important. Make sure they’re prepared to share their belongings prior to being put into a situation where they may be asked to share, so that when you send your child to school with a new pack of crayons they’ll be ready and willing to share those crayons with others. Sharing also relates to friendship building skills in that it’s important to “share” a smile when someone smiles at you, to “share” in laughter when someone tells a joke – you get the idea. Sharing is fundamental in friendship building.
Say Hello: Simply saying “hi” to another person is sometimes all it takes to begin developing a new friendship. A wave and a smile can go a long way. Once your child feels confident saying hello to other children you can begin working on developing their conversation skills even more by teaching your child how to find a commonality by asking questions about favorites such as: “What’s your favorite sport?” “What’s your favorite color?” “What’s your favorite food?” Once they find a common favorite they can bond over that favorite by discussing whatever it is both children like or enjoy.
Be Positive: Most children are uniquely positive. Encourage them to always stay positive by setting a good example. Don’t make downtrodden comments around your child. Build other people up and make a point to talk about all of the wonderful things life offers. When a child is happy and positive other children will likely want to become friends simply because of their energy. You’ll likely be surprised to see how your own energy changes once you make the effort to flip the switch and focus on all things positive!
Making friends can be more difficult for some children than others. Encourage your child to keep trying and help them along the way.; be patient. Making new friendships is a skill they’ll learn to rely upon through to adulthood.