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Encouraging Your Kids To Make Friends

Any parents with kids know the anxiety of watching their child play alone at a social gathering or in the schoolyard. While some kids might naturally be social butterflies, it’s a simple fact that some children need a bit more encouragement than others. Nothing wrong with that! I think that every parent wants to see their kids succeed and thrive in social settings. Some parents, however, try using heavy-handed strategies to force kids to play together by arranging playdates or making their child talk to a peer. When was the last time you felt comfortable being made to talk to someone when you didn’t want to? I’m pretty sure it was never. 

Children Learning Activities

Instead of trying to make your kids socialize, there are a couple of clever parenting tricks you can use to help your child feel more confident speaking to their peers and forming healthy friendships. Children have feelings and worries just like adults do. By helping to put your kid at ease about interacting with others and encouraging them to express themselves, you can help your kid make friends all on their own. With summer in full swing and the school year just on the horizon, here are a few tips to help your kids make friends naturally.

Show Your Kids Love

One of the most important things I do to encourage my kids to be more social is to help them to feel more confident in interacting with others by creating a warm and positive social environment for them at home. Children tend to avoid socializing with others when they’re afraid they won’t be welcomed or that they’ll be rejected. By creating an inviting atmosphere at home, you can help your child to feel more comfortable with interacting with strangers, as well. 

Research has also shown that parents who show their children warmth and who avoid using negative discipline strategies tend to foster children who are more prosocial over time, allowing children to associate socialization with positive rather than negative experiences. By helping your kids to feel more comfortable with you, they’ll also feel more comfortable with others. Win, win!

Help Them Regulate Emotions

Another important social skill to help your kids develop in order for them to form successful friendships is the ability to control their own emotions. Everyone experiences ugly emotions sometimes. Anger, jealousy, pride — these are as human as any other emotion, and children shouldn’t be punished for expressing them. However, it’s also important that you teach your child that they have to be able to control their own impulses for them to be able to socialize successfully with their peers and teachers later in life. 

Instead of punishing your kids for expressing negative emotions, talk to them about how to deal with their emotions without lashing out at others. By being sympathetic towards your child and helping to guide them towards better self-regulation skills, you can ensure that your child is able to control themselves instead of driving their peers away.

Understand Their Anxieties

While it might seem that childhood is a time of pure innocence and fun, oftentimes school-aged children experience their own sources of stress and anxiety as much as any adult. If your child is having difficulty making friends, it’s important that you understand what they’re worried about. Maybe your child is being bullied at school, or they’re experiencing anxiety. Some mental health conditions can make friendships difficult as well, such as rejection sensitive dysphoria. If your child is displaying any symptoms of a mental health illness, you should offer them support from a mental health professional who can better help them overcome what they’re going through.

Encourage Empathy

Empathy refers to the ability to understand and share in the emotions and feelings of another person. Empathy is one of the most important skills a person can have when it comes to cultivating healthy relationships. While popular belief may often portray empathy as a natural ability, empathy is in fact a learned skill that children develop as they grow up. By encouraging your child to stay aware of the emotions and feelings of others, you can train their sense of empathy so that they become more considerate and sensitive to the feelings of others over time.

Give Them Loads of Practice

Finally, proper socialization is the most important factor in helping your kids become more comfortable with interacting with their peers and making friends. By offering your child ample opportunities to have fun and interact with peers, they will eventually become more comfortable with strangers and be more open to making friends with new people. 

Never force your child to interact with others if they’re not comfortable, however. Simply provide them with the opportunity, such as by taking them to the park or to the mall where other children are nearby. If your child feels comfortable venturing out and interacting with the other kids, they’ll do so. Otherwise, simply offer your child support in case they get scared. Over time, your child should become more comfortable with making friends on their own.

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