Does your child struggle to make friends? Is his/her fear of meeting new people making new situations very difficult? This is a common issue for kids of all ages. As parents, there are many things that we can do to help our kids overcome their fear or at the very least, make the best of the situation. Perhaps the most important thing to remember is not to force your child into anything that he or she is not comfortable doing. While some situations, like going to a new school or starting a new grade are inevitable, other situations are avoidable. By reading your child and understanding his or her fears, you can help make situations easier.
You are the Role Model
It is easy to forget that our children watch every move that we make, including in our friendships. How you conduct your social life is what your child will model. If you are shy around the general public or are generally angry around people, your child will pick up on that and could start to act the same way. On the other hand, if you are empathetic and generous around everyone that you come into contact with, your child will pick up on that as well. How you act can help to shape their personality and how they interact with others. It cannot change their internal feelings or general feeling of shyness that they were born with, but it could enable them to let loose a little more.
Help with Conversations
Conversations are not something that comes natural to every child. Believe it or not, it is a skill that you need to teach or at the very least, help to perfect. Shy children, in particular, could have a very difficult time starting a conversation. As a parent you can offer help at home, by practicing difference scenarios often. Helping your child learn not only how to start a conversation, but how to continue it is an important skill that will help kids with any personality learn to make and keep friends. Even if your child can start a conversation with a “hi,” if there is nothing to follow it up, there might not be a friendship made. Talk to your child about different ways to strike up conversation, whether it is about the toys that the kids are playing with together, the clothing a child is wearing or anything else that they seem to have in common at the moment, as most kids live “in the moment.”
Encourage Play Dates
Sometimes group situations can be too overwhelming for kids to handle. Instead, at a young age, start introducing one-on-one playdates. This allows your child to learn how to become comfortable around other children, one at a time. As your child progressively builds his or her social skills, it will naturally become easier to be around groups of people in any type of situation, including new situations.
As a parent, helping your child make friends can be one of the most difficult things to do. There is a fine line that you need to walk in order to avoid becoming overbearing yet not involved enough. Let your child lead the way with you intervening as you see necessary. Eventually, with your guidance, even shy children can learn to make the best of any situation and find a commonality with at least one or two other kids in their class, group or neighborhood.
If you would like a little more help getting your child to accept new situations, read “Fireman Max Goes to 2nd Grade” together. In it you will see how Fireman Max deals with the uncertainty of a new situation and can open up conversation for you and your child.