8 Ways to Help Your Child Make Friends and Fit In
For some kids, making friends and finding a social circle is easy, while for others it can be a struggle. Mighty Mommy shares 8 tips you can use to help your child through the lonely periods of fitting in and generating new friendships.
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Tip #4: Don’t Impose Your Social Preferences on Your Child
Just as we have dreams for our children when they are born—becoming the doctor who cures cancer or an agriculture specialist who finally stops world hunger—we also often harbor hopes for their popularity and social lives.
Just because you and your partner are both outgoing and love to participate in group events, doesn’t mean your child will follow suit. It's important to follow the child's lead on this. If you see your son gravitating towards group outings and activities—great! But if you see that he flourishes when he’s doing something one on one with a friend or classmate, then try and find ways to encourage those situations regardless of your own social preferences. Not everyone needs to be a social butterfly.
Tip #5: Encourage Your Child to Talk About it
When your child comes to you and tries to talk about his or her social struggles don’t emit signals (verbal or non-verbal) that you are uncomfortable talking about it. Give your child as much time and opportunity as they need to unload their feelings, no matter how painful it is for you to take in.
Give reassurance that all kids go through this at some point and that even you were there once yourself (well all know that social struggles aren't limited to children). Offer to help in coming up with solutions so the child doesn’t feel so alone.
Tip #6: Find One Friend First
It’s a lot easier to start a relationship with one person than trying to fit into an existing group. When you talk with your child, tell them to deal with kids one at a time. You can say, “How about if you start with trying to find one friend first? Is there anyone at school who you might like to hang out with?” Suggest children they might not have thought about before.
For example, my 14-year-old son has never liked to play on athletic teams like his 4 brothers. He came to us last year very upset that he didn’t fit in because he wasn’t an athlete. He said that other kids in school often commented that they couldn’t believe he didn’t play baseball and soccer like his brothers.
His passion is building things like Legos and complicated robotics projects, not sports. So we spent lots of time positively reinforcing what his strengths were and, knowing full well that athletics were not for him, we sought advice from one of his favorite teachers. She helped guide him towards a couple of kids who were also building enthusiasts and now he has two great buddies that are on his wavelength.
Tip #7: Open Your Home to Your Child's Friends
If your child is young, invite his or her friends over for a play date. Be sure to have a couple of activities in mind because younger kids need direction. As your children get older, continue to encourage them to have friends visit your home.
Make your house a welcoming place for your children's friends. This can make things easier as they, and their friendships, mature. It will also give you the chance to get to know your children's friends.
See also: Get to Know Your Teens Friends
Tip #8: Reach Out to Teachers and Coaches
When one of my kids is struggling socially, I find that their teachers are often the best sources for information. If your child has more than one teacher, figure out whom he connects with the most, and check in with that teacher occasionally. Teachers see children interacting with others in the classroom, at lunch, and at recess, and also have a good sense of what is "normal" for children at different ages in terms of friendships and social behavior.
Keep in mind that teachers may not provide this information spontaneously, but will often share their opinions about a child's behavior and friendships if parents ask them directly. Other adults who see your child in a group setting, such as a scout leader, swimming instructor, or day care provider, may also be able to answer questions about the social behaviors and struggles they have witnessed.
Recognizing when your children are struggling socially and when they need your help is as important as making sure they do their homework (and a lot more difficult). But, if you remain positive and available to them as they find their way in the world of friendships, you will make a lifelong impact on their ability to navigate life’s never-ending social challenges.
How have you helped your child make new friends? Share your thoughts in the comment section at quickanddirtytips.com/mighty-mommy or post your ideas on the Mighty Mommy Facebook page. You can also connect with me on Twitter @MightyMommy or e-mail me at email@example.com. Visit my family-friendly boards at Pinterest.com/MightyMommyQDT.
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Until next time—happy parenting!