Making new friends can be hard at any age. Whether its children or adults, that first step towards friendship can be difficult, but ultimately worth it. We need friends in our lives. Children are aware of the need for friendship, but it can be hard sometimes for them to start. Here are some ways to help children make friends.
Keep your expectations realistic with children, especially with regards to their age. Children that are under 3 years old still resort to parallel play. That is, they play next to each other, either with similar toys or different ones, but don’t really interact with each other. After 3 years of age, children will begin to play together, but younger kids will usually look to older kids to initiate the type of play.
Children may also have a different perception of what makes a friend. As children get older they will start to have specific friends they gravitate towards, but they will also see benefit it making spontaneous friends at the playground. Both are important types of friendships that should be encouraged.
The ability to make friends is a skill and like all skills, needs to be taught. Some children will pick up this skill easier than others, and that is ok. If your child is ready to make new friends, but unsure of how to do so, make sure you model this behavior. You can go up with your child to others on the playground. Introduce your child and ask if they can play together. Make sure your child is comfortable, and slowly let them take over. You’ll be surprised at how easily play resumes after a quick introduction.
It’s also important to model your own friendships. Yes, it can be hard to maintain friendships as a parent, but it is important for everyone that you do so. Have friends over for dinner. If they also have children, have a big play date. You can also talk to your child and tell them about how you go out to meet friends. By modelling healthy friendships, your child will see what normal expectations are.
Neither age expectations or modelling will do any good if your child doesn’t have the opportunity to actually meet other children. This is why social activities are so important to be a part of. Rec centres and sports organizations offer plenty of programs for children based on age and interest. Indoor play centres are full of children, all itching to run around together.
There are also a number of free options for children. Most libraries will offer a storytime that incorporates books and songs. Some schools run preschool-like programs with parent participation. Local organizations will have toddler drop-ins that are either free or by donation. It may take a bit of digging, but most communities have plenty of options for socialization.
Once you’ve gotten to know other parents and children, take the next step by organizing a playdate, either in your own home or at a local park. Keep building on these friendships so that your child can flourish.