No Child’s Play: What to Do When Your Kids Can’t Make Friends

child feeling lonely

It’s every parent’s dread: their kids failing to make friends. It’s heartbreaking to acknowledge the reality that your child is always left out of group projects in school or sleepovers and birthday parties. But more than the sense of exclusion or rejection, you wonder if they’re ever going to form friendships on their own. As you know, peer groups are essential to childhood development. They give opportunities for kids to keep their emotions in check, respond to others’ feelings, solve problems, and more. These are all important in making them grow. That said, if your child is having trouble making friends, here’s what you should do:

Know the cause.

If you know what’s causing the problem, you can appropriately think of solutions. So your first step is to understand why your kids have difficulty in socializing. Usually, the reasons fall into two categories. One is that your child is merely shy. It’s their temperament. It takes a long period for them to warm up to people. The other reason is that they lack interpersonal skills, which then ultimately turns off the people around them.

It could be that they’re not able to read social cues properly. They might be too clingy or possessive. They can also find it difficult to understand other people’s emotions. This is common among kids who have autism spectrum disorder. Doctors who provide help for kids with autism know that these behaviors can be very confusing. That’s why your child can’t connect with other kids.

Have role-playing games at home.

Lots of practice can help a child be comfortable in social situations. Act like you’re one of those kids playing at the campus, or have your other children do it. Ask your kid what they should ask their playmates. This is their first point of contact. Your goal here is to have them experience introducing themselves and asking for their peers’ names.

Then, move to the next scene wherein they want to borrow a toy. Your objective is to teach your children the value of asking for permission. They should be able to say the magic words: “please” and “thank you.”  They should also understand the concept of taking turns. Encourage them to speak confidently and let them say a few things about the toy they’re borrowing.

From here, try other social situations, like when their friends refuse to give toys or when they have to say goodbye. Hopefully, the next time they get to the playground, they’ll be able to remember your role-playing activities.

Nurture your child’s interests.

child's hobbies

It’s easier for children to engage in social situations when they have an object of interest. This works for both shy kids and children with autism. Take advantage of social activities that reinforce your child’s hobbies. For instance, if they’re into swimming, sign them up for swimming classes. If they love chess, search for junior chess clubs in your locale. You can create your own, too. If they’re into making cookies, perhaps you can host a baking class in your home. Invite their classmates and inform their teachers. It will be natural for kids to engage in conversations with others when they’re doing something they love.

It’s never easy to see your child not being able to fit in. It’s not a good feeling to be left out. The good news is that you can do something to help your kids make friends. Start today.

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