Ways that children make friends

29 December, 2011

How to help children make friends

Children are programmed to be social

From the moment they’re born, kids are programmed to be social. The ability to make friends is a survival skill at the very heart of how humans function.

But that doesn’t mean that your child’s going to turn into a charismatic crowd-pleaser over night. Research shows that parents play a massive role in their child’s social development. Popular children have strong verbal skills, are empathic and well-behaved, as well as being helpful and quick to share.

If your child is going to make friends, they’ll need to learn how to keep their negative emotions in check. Temper tantrums, bad behaviour and displays of anger are quick-fire ways to warn away others. By discussing this behaviour with your child in a sympathetic and attentive way, studies show that they’ll grow up to develop better emotional self-control. The key is to be strict, but also to talk to your child openly and show them personal warmth; they may be sent to their room and receive a good telling-off, but remember to discuss with them what they did wrong and why they shouldn’t have done it.

Even with negative behaviour in check, it’s still going to be difficult for a child to learn how to make conversation. As many adults would agree, the ability to converse easily is not one that comes naturally to most, but with a few hints and tips to fall back on, your child can easily overcome awkward silences:

  • Start a conversation by trading information (likes and dislikes are easy choices and bonding subjects of choice for many)
  • After answering a question remember to pass the conversation back to the other child
  • Children, especially younger ones, might find themselves talking over each other frequently. Remember to teach your child to remain quiet and not interrupt other children when they’re speaking.

The key to polite and persuasive conversation is listening; your child needs to make it clear that they are paying attention to what other children are saying. The key is to make eye contact; remembering to face the person talking to you and give them your full attention; reply to questions without changing the subject, even if bored.

Bear in mind, however, that while your child is growing their social skills, it may be best to avoid certain situations. Studies have shown that cooperative activities, such a “playing house” or puzzle solving and arts & crafts in groups, lend themselves to better behaviour. Outgoing children are often better behaved and accepted by the group, primarily because during cooperative activities, children are shown to become more tolerant of others. The same cannot be said for competitive play however. Even though sports and other competitive activities are an essential part of childhood, try to avoid introducing these activities too early in your child’s social development, particularly if they’re having trouble with their behaviour. Not only does competitive play lack the benefits listed above, but it can also cause points of conflict, often leading to tense and socially uncomfortable situations.