As we continue our focus on developing the keys to friendship, there are times when I speak with parents who share concerns that their child does not have any friends to play with. The reality is that most children will find it tricky to make friends sometimes.
Building friendships depends on developing emotional skills, self-regulation skills as well as social competence. If your child is finding it hard to make a friend, there are a few ways in which you can support and help.
For example, many children have trouble making friends because they feel shy or anxious. If we show our children how to respond to friendly overtures and provide them with easy, safe opportunities for interacting with friendly people, we can help them build these crucial social connections.
Likewise, there are children who struggle because they lack adequate impulse control, or behave in ways that antagonize others. We can help our children make friends if we help them develop their self-regulation skills.
Just about all children will benefit from coaching and practice in the social arts. All around the world, successful friendship depends on the same, fundamental skills. To be successful, children need to learn to:
- regulate their own negative emotions
- understand other people’s emotions and perspectives
- show sympathy and offer help to friends in need
- feel secure and trusting of other people
- know how to handle introductions and participate in conversations
- be capable of cooperation, negotiation and compromise
- know how to apologise and make amends
- be understanding (and forgiving) of other people’s mistakes
It’s a long list and honing these skills requires opportunity, effort and practice.
Making friends isn’t a magic trick. It’s something we learn and something we can help our children learn.
Gail Mitchell, Head of Primary