Ten Ways To Help Your Child Make Friends (2023)

Not only is having friends fun, but it also has a positive developmental influence on social and emotional skills to teach kids how to get along with others and interact with the world. "Friendships are critical to helping children improve their communication, sharing, empathy, problem-solving, and creativity," says Rachelle Theise, Psy.D., a clinical assistant professor and child psychologist at the NYU Child Study Center in New York City.

While some kids are natural social butterflies, others need more time to warm up to new situations. Do you notice that your child hovers the margins of the playground unsure of how to assert himself, or feels squeamish in social experiences?

As parents, we can meet our child where they are, and help teach them skills to feel more confident and comfortable making friends. Rachel Busman, PsyD, a psychologist who works with anxious kids, explains, “Different children in the same family can have different social limits and degrees of comfort. For kids who struggle with these skills, we want to give them opportunities to meet new kids, yet we also want to help bridge the transition so they aren’t too uncomfortable. We don’t want to throw them off the diving board, but rather ease them toward the deep end.”

And while parents can’t make friends for their children, decades of research suggest that parents play a big role in teaching children the skills required to make friends.

1. Be a fly on the wall

(Video) How To Help Your Child Make Friends

Take time to observe your child and understand how they socialize with others.

  • Does your child behave differently around others than they do at home? If so, why could this be?
  • Does your child prefer to keep to himself and observe, or does he prefer to join in the group?
  • What skills does your child seem to have the most difficulty with - questioning, sharing, or extending invitations?

2. Celebrate your child for who they are

Be realistic and accepting of your child’s unique personality and temperament, which guides how much social interaction they seek. Just because social situations are easy/difficult for you, doesn’t mean it will be the same for your child. Instead, notice who your child is innately, and honor it. Dr. Eastman shares, “It’s tough when a parent’s normal doesn’t line up with a child’s normal. As long as your kids are doing things they want to do and are happy and well-adjusted, that’s good.”

3. Model positive social behavior

Every time you interact with others, your child is aware. Whether you’re saying hi to someone as you pass by in the grocery store or strike up a conversation with the neighbor, every situation is a learning opportunity for your child to see how you join in, conversate, problem-solve, and invite others to do something.

4. Be an emotion coach

(Video) How to Help Your Child Make Friends | Child Anxiety

Kids first learn about social and emotional skills - the keystones to communication and making friends - at home. Help your child notice bodily sensations (such as mad, sad, calm, and happy), name them, and select strategies to regulate their bodies. Using aCalming Corneris a great way to create a safe space for children to feel and develop the foundation of self-awareness, social awareness, empathy, problem-solving, and making amends. Knowing these emotions can help them feel confident enough to cross barriers to making friends.

5. Roleplay

If your child has difficulty starting conversations with peers, practice at home.

  • Conversation is the trading of information. Discuss topics with your child that interests her and that she may like to talk about with other kids. In addition, help her brainstorm questions to ask other kids about themselves, too.
  • A part of communication is active listening. Teach your child how to pause and listen before following up with a response, or ask a question of their own. Once children learn how to question-ask, listen, and follow-up, they are better able to make connections with others.
  • For a friendship to begin, someone has to take action. This can be as simple as a smile, and grow towards the invitation to do something or it can be joining in with what a child or group is already doing. Explain this concept and brainstorm simple, low-risk invitations: Do you want to play during recess? May I sit next to you?

6. Start in familiar territory

Children who feel less confident in social situations often feel more comfortable in their own home. To help put your child at ease, plan a playdate on his home-turf where everything is familiar, and he is not overwhelmed with being in a new environment. Practicing and rehearsing social skills in a safe and warm environment will support your child by teaching him social cues and age-appropriate social skills.

7. Practice outside of the home

(Video) 4 Ways to help your child make friends

As your child becomes more comfortable, help her stretch her comfort zone to outside of the home. Perhaps take her to a park and choose another child to approach. Maybe at first, it’s just a smile, and then to say hi. Then, progress to exchanging names. From there, practice asking to join in the play and then inviting others to join in, too. Eventually, your child will feel more comfortable and can sequence the steps on her own.

One mom shares, “I took my five-year-old to the park and we walked hand-in-hand to another child. I offered a hello, my name, helped my child introduce himself, and bridged the gap by helping my child ask to join in the game of tag. Eventually, we progressed to where we walked up together, but he would do the talking. And now, he runs off on his own and takes the lead. It took time and teaching, but he got there.”

8. Be a guide by the side

Be there to guide your children from the sidelines without robbing them of the chance to explore and develop their own social skills. Children learn from the natural consequences of their actions. The trial and error involved in making friends and trying new things help build resilience and grit.

9. Play games

Several studies have shown that children feel more comfortable participating in cooperative games and activities where they share a common goal as opposed to competitive games. If your child is new to building social skills, this may be a good place to start.

(Video) If Your Child Has Trouble Making Friends, Watch This

But, games, in general, are a great way to help your child learn many skills such as communication, impulse control, taking turns, interpreting social situations, and more. Once your child learns how to play a game, encourage them to invite their sibling or a friend to join.

10. Read books

Children learn so much through the play and wonder of a good book. Look forbooks that feature friendships, compassion, sharing, inclusion, and books that encourage self-love and self-esteem. As you read, talk about what the characters may be feeling, why they chose certain actions, and what they could do differently. By exploring the story’s characters, your child will learn a great deal about friendship.

Making friends isn’t always something that happens poof! overnight. It involves many important social-emotional skills such as self-awareness, empathy, problem-solving, communication, and more. Parents can introduce these important tidbits from the youngest of ages and continue to build on them as their child grows.

As children step out on their journey to making friends, reinforce their behavior and celebrate their small successes. Because let’s face it, we aren’t just their parents - we are their biggest fans and best coaches.

FAQs

How can I help my 12 year old make friends? ›

By Amanda Morin
  1. Go over social rules and cues. ...
  2. Remind her there are different types of friends. ...
  3. Understand what your child wants and needs. ...
  4. Keep talking about what's important in a friend. ...
  5. Help her recognize possible friends. ...
  6. Explore new ways she can start friendships. ...
  7. Talk about behaviors that can damage a friendship.

What are 5 ways to make friends? ›

5 Simple Tips To Make Friends
  1. Just be yourself.
  2. Be open to trying new things.
  3. Look for opportunities to talk to someone.
  4. Pursue common interests.
  5. Make the effort to stay in touch.

How can I help my child who is struggling socially? ›

There are several steps parents can take to improve their child's social skills.
  1. Follow Their Interests. Enjoying others will come more naturally when a child is doing something they are genuinely interested in. ...
  2. Learn to Ask Questions. ...
  3. Practice Role Playing. ...
  4. Teach Empathy. ...
  5. Know Your Child's Limits. ...
  6. Be a Good Role Model.

Why is my child not making friends? ›

Some kids develop it naturally at a young age, while others need more time. In some cases, kids simply haven't met anyone they can connect with. Different challenges can also get in the way. Some kids get too nervous or anxious to talk to others.

Why does my 10 year old have no friends? ›

There are many reasons why a child may not have many, or any, friends. She might be noticeably different, either physically or intellectually. He may lack social skills or a have a personality that puts off others his own age. He might not share the same interests as his classmates (for example he may hate sports).

What activities can help a child make friends? ›

You can help kids make friends by coaching them at home. Talk about taking turns and sharing. Try using role-playing to practice different ways to handle disagreements. You can also demonstrate good behavior when you talk to family and your own friends.

Why cant my 9 year old make friends? ›

Some kids have social difficulties.

Their interpersonal skills are lacking, which puts off peers and makes it tough to develop friendships. They may not read social cues properly. They may be controlling or aggressive or talk only about themselves and show little interest in others.

Why is my child not socializing? ›

Issues with interacting can be an early warning sign of autism. In this case, children may avoid interacting with peers or struggle to make social connections with peers. Other neurological differences like ADHD can also underlie challenges with some types of social interaction.

What are 4 ways to make new friends? ›

How to make new friends
  1. Meet other people. Joining a club, youth group, online forum or getting involved in an activity you enjoy is a great way of meeting new people. ...
  2. Help other people. ...
  3. Be a great listener. ...
  4. Show you're open with your body language. ...
  5. Make an effort. ...
  6. Be a good friend. ...
  7. Choose good friends.

Why are some kids unpopular? ›

Children who are anti-social, defiant, angry, bossy, impulsive and even shy have a greater risk of becoming unpopular — a term no one wants to be identified with. Although there are myriad reasons why children become unpopular, the main cause is a lack of social skills and parental guidance.

What to say to a child who is lonely? ›

Talk to your child

Keep it light – show an interest in their friends or peers, and ask how they feel about them. Let them know it's OK to be alone sometimes. We all feel lonely from time to time: it doesn't make them a failure. Acknowledge their feelings if your child says they're lonely.

What to do when no one will play with your child? ›

Go to a busy playground.

A child may not have anyone to play with simply because no one's around. Head to a local playground. Throw a ball around or play a game together and see if others join.

How do I get my child to socialize? ›

How to help younger kids with socializing
  1. Don't push too hard. ...
  2. Don't feel like you have to keep your child at home. ...
  3. Do plan playdates at your house first. ...
  4. Do encourage your child to join clubs or other activities. ...
  5. Do plan family activities. ...
  6. Do rehearse ahead of time for situations that make your child nervous.

How do you build a child's social confidence? ›

Here are things parents can do to help kids feel good about themselves:
  1. Help your child learn to do things. ...
  2. When teaching kids how to do things, show and help them at first. ...
  3. Praise your child, but do it wisely. ...
  4. Be a good role model. ...
  5. Ban harsh criticism. ...
  6. Focus on strengths. ...
  7. Let kids help and give.

At what age do children develop real friendships? ›

Friendships usually develop when children are around 4 years old. Building a friendship takes emotional skills, social skills and some self-control.

At what age do children develop best friends? ›

By four years, most children will be able to tell the difference between 'my friend' and other children they know. Some children seem to make friends easily and get energy from being around a lot of other people. Others can find this tiring and overwhelming.

At what age does a child typically start to make friends? ›

At 3 years old, children often meet others at playgroup or child care and may be able to name their friends and want to play with them. Sometimes children this age don't have a clear idea who their friends are. By age 4, children usually have friends at preschool or day care.

What is the easiest way to make friends? ›

  1. Join a group or club. Find a local group where people with interests like yours meet regularly. ...
  2. Take a class. Sign up for a class at your local college, senior center, or gym. ...
  3. Look locally. You may be surprised by how many events are happening right in your community. ...
  4. Volunteer. ...
  5. Join a social circle.

How normal is it to have no friends? ›

In general, having no friends is relatively normal. A February 2021 report found that 36% of Americans felt serious loneliness and a 2019 report showed that 1 in 5 people had no friends. If you have no friends, you are not alone. However, having no friends can lead to loneliness for some people.

At what age do you have the least friends? ›

A recent study by Oxford University and Aalto University in Finland found that around age 25, friendships dwindle – and fast. In this phase of life, when people start settling into careers and relationships, superficial friendships take a back seat.

Is it OK to have no friends? ›

People need at least a little human contact in order to thrive, and true isolation can take a toll on your overall well-being. If you're not totally isolated, though, and your lack of friends doesn't trouble you, it can be perfectly fine to be satisfied with your own company.

What is the best activity to make friends? ›

21 Best Ways to Meet New Friends in a New City or Town
  1. Volunteer in the community. ...
  2. Join an amateur sports team. ...
  3. Join a gym and try an exercise class. ...
  4. Join a dance class. ...
  5. Run a local road race. ...
  6. Join your local Chamber of Commerce or a Professional Networking Group. ...
  7. Join a religious group or cultural club. ...
  8. Join a wine club.
1 Feb 2018

How do I teach my child friendship skills? ›

7 Ways to Teach Your Child to Be a Good Friend
  1. Model Friendship.
  2. Discuss What Makes a Good Friend.
  3. Give Them Opportunities to Socialize.
  4. Help Them Become Good Listeners.
  5. Teach Them How to Resolve Conflicts.
  6. Read Books About Friendship.
  7. Praise Their Positive Friendship Traits.
24 Aug 2018

What causes poor social skills? ›

Learning social skills can be difficult if you weren't exposed to traditional group dynamics as a child, if you struggle with a mental illness like anxiety or depression, or even if you just didn't have a lot of positive role models when you were growing up.

What activities help with shyness? ›

Let's look at some of the best activities for a shy child
  • Crafting Activities. Handling a shy school-age child is quite simple. ...
  • Oral Activities. ...
  • Awakening A Child's Sense of Curiosity. ...
  • Playing Outdoor Games. ...
  • Outdoor Gardening. ...
  • Creation of Family Journals. ...
  • Presentations of Topics. ...
  • Model Confident Behavior.
8 Apr 2022

What are signs of social anxiety in a child? ›

For children, anxiety about interacting with adults or peers may be shown by crying, having temper tantrums, clinging to parents or refusing to speak in social situations.

What are the 3 C's in friendship? ›

A different way of categorizing friendship is by applying “The Three C's”. There are three basic types of people with whom you interact: Constituents, Comrades, and Confidants.

What are 10 things that make a good friend? ›

What are the qualities of a good friend?
  • They live with integrity. ...
  • You can trust them. ...
  • “Dependability” is their middle name. ...
  • They're loyal. ...
  • They have empathy for others. ...
  • They're good listeners. ...
  • Their confidence is contagious. ...
  • Spending time with them makes you feel good.
16 May 2022

How do you make friends in 6 easy steps? ›

According to her book it only takes six easy steps. The first step is to smile, the second is to introduce yourself with a fun fact, the third is to say something nice, the fourth is to entertain with a party trick, the fifth is to share your favourite game or hobby and the final step is to ask your new friend to play.

How can I be a good 9 friend? ›

How to Show Your Type 9 Friend You Care:
  1. Be a good listener and encourage them to share their true feelings.
  2. Encourage them to share their grievances.
  3. Be sensitive when giving criticism.
  4. Appreciate what they do.
  5. Be patient when they need extra time to decide.
  6. Don't be bossy with them.
1 Jul 2020

Why are friends 10 lines important? ›

1) Friendship is the mutual bond between individuals who might share the same mindset or thoughts. 2) A good friend is the one with whom you can share your thoughts which you can't share with others. 3) Friendship deepens with the passing of time and converts into a strong relationship.

How do you grow new friends? ›

12 Keys to Cultivating Meaningful Friendships
  1. Be a good listener. The most interesting people we meet are often those that ask questions and listen. ...
  2. Be Genuine or Authentic. ...
  3. Do Not Gossip. ...
  4. Show Up – Every Time. ...
  5. Give Far More Than You Take. ...
  6. Respond. ...
  7. Confidentiality. ...
  8. Offer Advice Upon Request.
21 Oct 2019

How can I attract new friends? ›

The key to being a 'people magnet': How to attract friends and keep them for life
  1. Ask this simple three word question. ...
  2. Think of your friendships as an investment. ...
  3. Ask questions and listen to the answers. ...
  4. Share things about yourself. ...
  5. Give genuine compliments. ...
  6. Be authentic. ...
  7. Focus on your body language - and smile.
3 Sept 2014

Is it normal for a child to have no friends? ›

In most cases, children who are having trouble making friends are going through a normal developmental stage. It's natural for kids to feel anxious or awkward at times while finding where they fit in.

Is it normal for a child to not have friends? ›

There are many reasons why a child may not have many, or any, friends. She might be noticeably different, either physically or intellectually. He may lack social skills or a have a personality that puts off others his own age. He might not share the same interests as his classmates (for example he may hate sports).

How does having no friends affect a child? ›

Brain development. As argued, socially isolated children are at increased risk of health problems in adulthood. Furthermore, studies on social isolation have demonstrated that a lack of social relationships negatively impacts the development of the brain's structure.

What happens if a child doesnt socialize? ›

Children who struggle with social skills often have difficulty making friends and tend to be rejected by their peers. They may also have trouble getting along with teachers and other adults at school.

How do I help my lonely child? ›

Talk to your child

Keep it light – show an interest in their friends or peers, and ask how they feel about them. Let them know it's OK to be alone sometimes. We all feel lonely from time to time: it doesn't make them a failure. Acknowledge their feelings if your child says they're lonely.

What is lonely child syndrome? ›

Characteristics of only child syndrome

The belief is that they'll grow into selfish individuals who only think about themselves and their own needs. Also, lack of interaction with a sibling is believed to cause loneliness and antisocial tendencies.

What to do if your child is a loner? ›

Here are some suggestions for you: Discover and encourage your child's talents. Find out what he is interested in, such as art, music, math, nature or helping the less fortunate, and help him find ways to explore and develop his talents in these areas. Help him find volunteer activities around his talents.

At what age do kids really start making friends? ›

At 3 years old, children often meet others at playgroup or child care and may be able to name their friends and want to play with them. Sometimes children this age don't have a clear idea who their friends are. By age 4, children usually have friends at preschool or day care.

Why do some kids struggle to make friends? ›

Some kids develop it naturally at a young age, while others need more time. In some cases, kids simply haven't met anyone they can connect with. Different challenges can also get in the way. Some kids get too nervous or anxious to talk to others.

How do I teach my child social skills? ›

How can I teach my child social skills?
  1. Practise talking. Practise talking through role play, puppets and storytelling. ...
  2. Listen and take turns. ...
  3. Show the importance body language. ...
  4. Teach them about personal space. ...
  5. Develop their emotional skills. ...
  6. Find moments for learning in play.

How many friends does a child need? ›

Dr. Rooney advises keeping things in perspective. “Kids need just one or two good friends. You don't have to worry about them being the most popular kid in their class.”

What causes poor social skills in kids? ›

Weak social skills are commonly found in children diagnosed with Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), Non-verbal Learning Disability (NVLD), and Social Communication Disorder (SCD).

Videos

1. HOW TO HELP YOUR CHILD MAKE FRIENDS AT SCHOOL | SJ STRUM
(SJ Strum)
2. How to Encourage Your Kids to Make Friends at School
(FOX10 News)
3. 6 Things To Do to Earn Your Child’s Friendship – Sadhguru
(Sadhguru)
4. How to Help Your Shy Child Make Friends
(The Real Love Company)
5. How to Teach Social Skills and Help Your Child Make Friends
(Boys Town)
6. How To Raise Emotionally Intelligent Children | Lael Stone | TEDxDocklands
(TEDx Talks)
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