Please enjoy today’s guest post on the topic of teaching kids how to reach out and make friends, which is a critical life skill!
Top Three Ways for Kids to Show They Want to Be Friends
By Eileen Kennedy-Moore, PhD
Maybe you’ve heard your child say, “No one wants to play with me!” Maybe your child complains about having no friends. Comments like these can make parents feel helpless. You know you can’t make friends for your child, but you teach simple ways to set the stage for the beginning of a friendship.
A first step of forming a friendship is usually greeting another child to show openness. This should include eye contact with a warm smile and being able to say hello loud enough so that others can hear. Shy kids tend to have trouble in this area. Often, they will look away, not respond or if they do, just mumble a response. While they don’t mean to, the message they send by doing this is that they don’t want to have anything to do with other kids.
If your child behaves this way, try role playing to practice greeting others. Make sure your child smiles and looks happy to see the other person. Saying the other child’s name can also help make the greeting more personal. After building up confidence by practicing greetings at home, encourage your child to try greeting classmates.
Showing kindness is another way to open the door to friendship because one small act of kindness tends to lead to more kindness and all around positive feelings between kids. Acts of kindness could involve genuine complements such as “I really liked your poster for the book report” or “Great pitch!” or “Awesome sneakers!” Or they could be helpful gestures such as saving a seat in the lunchroom, picking up a dropped item, lending a piece of paper or even holding the door open for someone.
Warn your child not to try to “buy” friendship by giving away possessions or money. Other kids will probably take what is offered, but they might not reciprocate. They could also lose respect for your child if the offering seems like a sign of desperation.
Another word of caution: Some kids go overboard hugging or kissing classmates to express fondness. If the child on the receiving end is uncomfortable with this, let your child know it’s time to stop. Suggest milder ways to show liking., such as smiling, waving or giving high fives.
- Shared fun
The most important way that kids build friendships is by having fun together. Help your child come up with ideas of fun things to do with peers at school, on the playground, or at your home. This could include anything from playing tag to building with Legos, hunting for bugs or doing art projects. The key is to minimize arguing and let the shared activity build closeness.
Greetings, kindness, and shared fun can bring kids together and set the stage for friendship. Coaching from a parent can make it easier for kids to feel comfortable and confident doing these friendly behaviors. Learning to show that they’re interested in making friends can help kids connect with classmates and have more fun.
Eileen Kennedy-Moore is an author and clinical psychologist, based in Princeton, NJ. Her newest co-authored book written with health and parenting writer, Christine McLaughlin, is Growing Friendships: A Kids’ Guide to Making and Keeping Friends (Beyond Words/Simon & Schuster, for ages 6-12). She is also the creator of DrFriendtastic.com.