Help your child in forming and maintaining friendships
If your child struggles with forming or maintaining friendships, here are a few things you can do to help them develop the appropriate skills required.
- Observe your child in social situations to understand where they may be facing difficulty. Talk to their teacher or counsellor to better understand why they may not be forming close friendships.
- Work on social skills such as greeting, making conversations, taking turns, asking for permission, being courteous, sharing material, helping others, etc.
- Start with simple steps. Encourage children to smile when they meet someone and greet them with a ‘hello’ or ‘good morning’.
- Teach them how to initiate conversations. They could start with just a ‘Hello, how are you’, ask the other person’s name (if unknown), and introduce themselves. They could then talk about something that is happening in class or compliment the other person on their work or belongings or ask them their interests. Indulge in role-playing to practise these conversations.
- Through role-playing, watching TV shows, and real-life situations, help your child understand social cues. These include facial expressions, body language, voice pitch and tone, and personal space.
- Organise play dates at home or another familiar place, inviting kids their age. Include kids they are already familiar with or are their friends. You may also use this as an opportunity for them to meet new kids. Introduce them to children who have similar interests. Help them mutually decide games with their friends and understand when to move on to the next game. Teach them hospitality (if inviting friends to your place), respecting others’ decisions, personal space and so on.
- Practice and model conversations of appropriate behaviours with friends, respecting the other person’s space and feelings, not saying hurtful things, not commenting negatively on someone’s physical appearance or personal belongings, giving compliments, offering or asking for help, sharing food or materials and so on.
- Based on their interests, encourage participation in extracurricular or after-school activities. These can also be places where children make friends, as they bond over shared interests.
- Encourage children who have issues expressing themselves or find it hard to decode tone or body language to make friends online. When used responsibly, the Internet can help children with learning disabilities or ADHD make friends easily, as they can use emoticons, stickers, short videos, etc., to express themselves clearly – happy, annoyed, confused.