Not all kids are cut from the same cloth. Some are happy-go-lucky with an extrovert personality who mingle with all age groups. Then there are those kids who find it difficult to start a conversation or make small talk with strangers. While we may call them shy or introverts, these kids are as jovial as extroverts but in a comparatively smaller circle.
However, it takes a lot of effort to put those guards down for a shy child. They are less likely to start conversations and could see limited activity in terms of their social circle. But, making friends is something that is teachable. It needs your child to develop their social skills, and you – the parent, will have to work with them till they find someone who matches the same wavelength.
Do remember, introverts are known to keep their friends close and their friendships tight like an air-sealed jar. But first, you need to teach them how to make friends as a kid. And here are five ways to ease into that process.
How To Make Friends As A Kid: 5 Ways Parents Can Help
1. Observe and learn your child’s natural socialising skills
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If your child isn’t the best at socialising with other children, it’s not the best idea to push them hard into doing so. It’s like pushing a non-swimmer into the deep end of the pool, expecting them to flap their hands and learn to swim. Clearly, that will not be the case and you will end up traumatising your child.
Instead, learn to ease the process and that begins with observing and learning from your child’s behaviour.
Pay close attention to how your child interacts at home versus how they are at school. This may need you to speak with their teachers and gain feedback on how they perform during group sessions.
You can also ask them about their day and be attentive if they drop the names of their friends in the conversation. Kids at this age are usually excited about their activities, especially with a new friend and would be eager to share with someone willing to listen.
Depending on the behaviour you see, you can assess the skills that your child needs to build for socialising. Not each child will have it naturally, and some children may need a bit of guidance.
At the end of the day, you need to be supportive of your child for them to overcome this fear.
2. Lead by example
Children are extremely aware and pick-up on the smallest of things from the adults around them. That’s why it’s important to see how you strike up conversations with strangers, neighbours, and relatives.
At times, you may think that your child isn’t paying attention, but they are, sometimes without even realising it themselves.
That’s why it’s important to reinforce the right kind of behaviour when it comes to social interactions. The things you say, the gestures you use, all mount up to something in your child’s little brain.
They do contribute to his social skills, negotiation techniques and problem-solving ability, as they grow up.
3. Be their first friend
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We can’t stress this enough but parents are the child’s first friends in their most formative years. They are the only adults that children trust and will learn from the right kind of teachings. That’s why you need to be a friend to your toddler so they are able to trust themselves and open up with more confidence.
You can also use the comfortability to role-play and train them to face the world outside.
Discuss how to make small conversations with your kid and let them ease into the process naturally. While the conversations may seem restricted, it will allow your child to at least try and implement them the next time he needs to start a conversation.
Similarly, if your child is too reluctant to make friends on the playground, it would be a good idea to accompany them for the first few times.
The idea is to familiarise them with the surroundings and the game before they are able to play with a larger group. This is especially true for children who find it extremely difficult to mingle in groups.
The support helps in building confidence, which will help your kid make friends outside.
4. Push your child out of their comfort zone
As harsh as it may seemingly sound, it’s important to push your child out of their comfort zone and let him try something new. It’s easier to avoid a social situation by not participating in the activity, but that won’t help them grow in life.
As a parent, it’s important that you teach your child to aim for higher, and this is not restricted to just academics or sports, but social skills too.
Of course, do remember to ease into the process instead of pushing them right away. Let them fail and come back but encourage them to go back out there and try again.
5. Praise the effort
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It takes a lot of nerve to actually go out there and make a conversation. Sometimes, it may seem like the hardest word in the world is to say “hello.” We’ve all been there, irrespective of our social skills and age. But at the end of the day, it’s always been rewarding to take the step, no matter the result.
That’s the attitude your child needs to inculcate as he grows up.
And, as a parent, you need to acknowledge each small step, success and effort that your child put in to get there. Like we always say, praise the effort and not the result.
This will have a lasting impact on them and push them to try something new the next time. Even if your child is making slow progress, acknowledge the effort. Eventually, we all get past the hurdles.
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