In elementary school, navigating school friendships can be difficult for a child. Our Education blogger, Anne Davis, suggests 5 ways on how you can help your child make friends on their own.
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Aside from academics, I am surprised at how much I worry about the social lives of my own children and the students in my second grade class. It is a pain like no other seeing a child who is left out or feeling lonely at school. Establishing and navigating friendships is a key part of a child’s development, but what happens when your child just isn’t fitting in?
When children are very young, it is simple. They are friends with your friends’ kids. Once kindergarten starts, children start to find their own groups. Young children tend to befriend anyone who is willing to play. The more the better is usually the way of the playground. But as kids get older, their friendships will change. In the elementary years, children will begin to seek friends with similar interests.
Today, parents seem to be more involved than ever in their children’s social lives. But how much is too much? Do children really need their parents to establish friendships for them? Below are some guidelines to help your child find healthy relationships.
5 TIPS TO HELP YOUR CHILD FIND HEALTHY SCHOOL FRIENDSHIPS
1.) More is not always better.
I have had students who are considered to be popular amongst their peers, tell me that they have no friends. When kids have large circles of friends, they can feel lost at times. Children need at least one “go to” friend. You can help by setting up one-on-one play dates. It can be tempting to have the whole soccer team over on a Saturday, but it is difficult to bond when a large group is involved. Try to invite one or two friends to play on a regular basis. Save the large gatherings for special treats. Let them find their own friends.
2.) Let them find their own friends.
This is a tough one for moms. We have our friends and it seems like a good fit for our kids’ social circles to coincide with ours. However, it is important for kids to be able to choose their own friends. Don’t try to steer your children towards a certain group. Invite over the kid whose name keeps coming up at dinner. Don’t worry if you don’t know that mom. Chances are she has heard your daughter’s name a million times too. Try meeting at a playground at first until you get to know the new family. Sometimes it’s easier for your kids to have friends with people that you don’t know. That way your feelings don’t get hurt should the friendship hit a bump in the road.
3.) Don’t get too involved.
Try not to jump in too quickly should problems arise. It is unlikely that your child’s first friend will still be hanging around once they hit high school. Kids need to learn that not all relationships last. It is ok to drift away from some friends or to find a whole new social circle. It is inevitable that your child’s heart will be broken by a friend. This is practice for all of the relationships they will encounter as teens and adults. With that being said, you should be aware of friendships that may be toxic to your child. If you see that your child is getting in trouble, becoming withdrawn or if you see changes in his personality after spending time with a certain child, then you need to step in. Try to limit time spent with friends who seem toxic. Encourage your child to invite over someone new and always keep the lines of communication open with your child.
4.) What about if my child isn’t making friends on his own?
If your child verbalizes to you that she is lonely at school or doesn’t have friends, you need to step in. Contact your child’s teacher. Teachers are very good at fostering friendships. Sometimes it is a matter of changing seats in the classroom or cafeteria. I try to notice kids who don’t get picked often by their peers and then let them choose a partner first. Once I see who they gravitate towards, I can find ways to allow time for them to be together. It is important to arrange opportunities outside of school for your child to spend with friends. Get them involved in after school activities or just meet up at a playground.
5.) Know your kid.
Above all, it is important to know your child. Some kids prefer the company of small groups as opposed to larger settings. If you notice that your child seems shy at parties or larger events, be sure to arrange play dates with one child at a time. Other kids really enjoy a larger group. Take cues from what your kids are telling you. Every night at dinner, I ask my two children who they played with at recess. This gives me a good idea of how they are doing socially.
Whatever you do, it is important to stress to your children the importance of both having friends and being a friend.
Thanks for reading,
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