Throughout our lives, friendships are important. They provide us with companions to create lasting memories, support when we’re feeling down, and enrich our lives.
In developmental terms, making friends can be almost as important as achieving good grades. As a parent, you can make small but significant contributions to help your child make friends at school and generally improve their social skills.
Some children, just like adults, are better at making friends than others. If you think your child might need a little extra encouragement, try these five methods for making friends at school.
The first step is to create an environment where your child can easily and comfortably communicate and play with their school friends. For younger children, you could organise a play date with other parents, bringing several children together in an informal, social setting.
Children often lack the confidence to try new things, especially if they don’t think they have the required skill. You can see this in how enthusiastic they are to join extracurricular and after-school sports classes. These provide a great opportunity however for your child to make friends, so help where you can by building up their confidence. If it’s an after-school football or swimming class, try practicing at home or in your local facilities. This can give them some baseline skill, building up the confidence they need to join the class.
Emotional invalidation prevents kids from learning how to manage their emotions. When we teach kids to identify their emotions, we give them a process to explain how they are feeling, which allows them to act on their emotions in a socially appropriate way.
Emotions are not only expressed in the content and tone of our voices. Our body language can also display the subtext of what we are trying to communicate. Without knowledge of what physical cues we are showing, it becomes much harder to develop meaningful friendships.
As part of your efforts to help children understand and control emotions, include body language and other physical cues.
When considering which activities you might include when helping your child make friends, consider what they like, their personality and their interests. Enjoying the company of others comes much more naturally when you’re doing something you enjoy. It’s easier for your child to be friendly, happy and social around like-minded children who are all embracing the same sport or activity.
Trying out a wide variety of interests is important for every child, but when starting out it’s best to give them every chance to socialise by selecting areas you already know will engage them.
It could be someone they don’t see eye-to-eye with, or just a general struggle to start conversations around the lunch table. There are many scenarios where children can struggle to engage with other people, but they can all be overcome with the help of role play.
Sit down with your child and act out a scenario they are finding difficult. Be sure to allow your child to switch sides, so you can see how your child portrays this individual or set of circumstances. When you’re done, propose topic areas or techniques for fostering better, more effective communication. Don’t forget to include everything you’ve taught them on understanding emotions and body language.
Building lasting friendships isn’t the only benefit of developing better social skills. They will also become a critical part of your child’s personal and, later, professional life. You’ll want to contribute as much as you can to the development of your child’s social skills. Here are some methods to do just that.
Before you take any action or make any suggestions to your child, take the time to understand how they interact with other children. This needs to be done outside of the home environment. Attend social events or after-school activities and observe how they interact with other children.
Perhaps they struggle in large crowds, or it’s purely instigating conversation where they have difficulty. Once you have a few observations you will know exactly where to focus your attention.
Positive reinforcement has long been proven as a powerful tool for teaching and good behaviours. The well-established theory states that when a reward follows a particular action or behaviour, you are reinforcing that action and therefore improving the chances of it being used again.
You can apply the principles of positive reinforcement to help encourage better social skills. Children like to know they are doing well, and there is no better person to tell them this than a parent.
If you see your child interacting positively with other children, being well mannered or overcoming a previously anxiety-riddled scenario, offer simple reinforcement like praise or tangible rewards.
As a parent, you are your child’s number one role model. Many of their personality traits and characteristics will be adopted from observing and mimicking you and other primary caregivers.
This provides you with an ideal opportunity to instil good social skills. Be aware that in every conversation you strike up, you could be influencing how your child will interact in the future. If you’ve been careful to teach your child to listen to others, be patient with them and show empathy for their situation, make sure you are doing the same in every conversation you have.
Comparisons with other children, academically, socially or in any other way, are always unhelpful. In how they communicate, how they develop and who they are, each child is unique. Don’t get caught up with who everyone else’s child is and how they are doing.
Remain focused on your child and what they can do to improve. With enough time and guidance, they will flourish and you will see them begin to enjoy socialising as their confidence levels grow.
It’s reassuring to know that the school you’ve selected also values developing social skills as highly as academic performance. At Nord Anglia Education, everything from our teaching methods to extra-curricular activities carefully considers how to develop skills outside of academic results. To find out more about how a Nord Anglia International School Manila approaches holistic child development, head to NAIS Manila page.
To find out more about how Nord Anglia International School Manila approaches holistic child development, speak with our Admissions Team online through our Virtual Discovery Meeting.
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