Establishing social relationships is one of the earliest milestones children of school age achieve. These interactions begin to build what will be their lifelong socialization habits. Learning how to meet new people, make friends, and get along with others are all critical skills.
Some children, however, are challenged more than others in this important area of life. If you recognize that your child is struggling with making friends and sustaining connections, you can implement strategies to help them succeed socially.
Use these techniques to help your child learn important social skills that will serve them well their entire life:
1. Establish and maintain open communication. Provide plenty of verbal encouragement to help your child build confidence in social interactions.
2. Keep your eyes open. Notice how your child relates to other children in the neighborhood, at school and during extracurricular activities.
- Does he seem excessively shy? Does he stand alone, waiting for others to approach him? Or do classmates make efforts but he doesn’t respond? You can gather information about your child’s social life simply by observing him in the presence of peers.
- When your child performs socially appropriate behavior, mention it later. Say something like, “It was nice of you to offer a cookie to Jim today.” Reinforce any positive actions you observed.
3. Set up a play date at your house. Talk with your child first about inviting a friend to come over to play. For example, you could start the conversation by asking her opinion, like, “Sally, would you like for Patty to come over to play Saturday morning?”
- Sally will most likely say, “Yes.” If she says “no,” inquire about why she doesn’t want Patty to come over.
- Arrange the play date with the other parent(s). To ensure the kids won’t get bored or tired, avoid making the first one too long. Depending on your child’s age, 1-2 hours should be adequate. Have some snacks on hand.
4. Ask your child the day before the play date how she’d like to spend the time. This conversation prompts her to consider activities she’d enjoy. Allow her to choose the activity as long as it’s safe, inside your home or in your yard, and is feasible (consider the weather).
- If your child doesn’t offer an idea, be encouraging and say, “I’m sure the two of you will come up with something fun to do.” Refrain from micro-managing the play date, if possible.
- This conversation plants the idea that when we have friends over, we share time doing something fun that we both enjoy. Also, she learns that being a friend requires some effort. Posing the question is a subtle way to teach her how to be appropriately social.
5. Make your home a fun place for kids. Doing so might boost your child’s social life. Do you have a family room with a television, DVDs, a video game console, books, board games, or other kid-friendly activities?
6. Spend a bit of time helping your child clean her room. After all, don’t we get ready for company in advance? These efforts illustrate for kids how friends behave and how social relationships are conducted.
7. When the play date occurs, leave the children to their own devices. Usually, two kids can figure out how to spend time. Check on them often to ensure they’re relating well. Intervene only when necessary (if play is too rowdy or loud or one or both kids seem bored).
- Your child will begin building confidence about social relationships after just one successful play date.
Preparing your child for social relationships can be fun for all and quite rewarding. These parenting techniques are fairly simple and yield beautiful results. Help your child learn to interact with others in a positive and meaningful way as they start to explore the world outside your home.