What to Do When Friendships Become an Issue for Your Child
It isn't uncommon for kids to have occasional trouble making or keeping friends, so here's some advice on how to handle the situation.
Start by gathering the facts. If the problem is occurring away from home, get the lowdown from a teacher or caregiver. Does the child have at least one good friend? That can be enough, says Erin Boyd-Soisson, associate professor of human development and family science at Messiah College in Pennsylvania.
If the child doesn't have anyone to connect with during the school day, focus on helping to build at least one good friendship. Some strategies: Plan playdates for after-school or weekends, especially for kids who prefer one-on-one interaction. If weekends are hectic and hosting kids at your house is difficult, arrange to meet another parent and child at a playground for an hour. Bring a healthy snack for sharing.
Join a team. Another way to build the friend-making experience: Enroll your child in team sports such as baseball or basketball, rather than individual sports like tennis. The shared activity helps kids learn to connect.
Also, help your child use recess to foster friendships. Is the child allowed to bring something from home -- maybe a soccer ball or a card game that several kids can play? If your child is offering a fun recess activity, that will likely encourage others to join in.
If your child has friends but is fighting with them, investigate but intervene sparingly. Kids are often furious at each other one day and best friends again the next. Sometimes getting involved causes friction with other parents that doesn't heal as easily.
Focus on skill-building. "Talk to them about what skills they need to resolve a conflict, like a sharing issue with a friend," Boyd-Soisson says. "Teach them how to talk about it to the friend and explain how it makes them feel." If possible, isolate the details: Is sharing the problem? Or does your child feel left out because friends are now excluding him or her?
If you're worried about physical harm (done to or by your child) or there is bullying going on, get involved. Contact the school and/or the other child's parents and work with them to resolve the problem.
Stay in touch. If a good friend moves away, that also can be tough. Get the friend's contact information and encourage your child to draw pictures or write notes (sent by e-mail or ground mail). Keeping that connection alive should help ease the loss.
Related: Friendship Coaches? For Kids? For Real?
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Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.