When There's Trouble Making Friends

Here are some invaluable guidelines for leading your child to friendship.

  • Avoid labeling or allowing other people to label your child. Social skills should be portrayed as things we all struggle to learn, and any child's social characteristics shouldn't be described as a fixed state, such as shy, insensitive or aggressive. Any label tends to perpetuate the behavior that it describes.
  • Set up situations with younger kids. Having opportunities to exercise leadership and social skills with an admiring younger child helps kids achieve the same level of social participation as their peers.
  • Take pressure off. Children's self-consciousness is greatly intensified when attention is focused on their response to an adult greeting or query. Instead of teaching manners at the very moment that an interaction occurs, practice things such as saying hello to an adult beforehand so that a social situation isn't a setup for social failure.
  • Involve yourself. Help your child make friends by including children in social activities. Driving other children to school, sponsoring a scout troop, baking together with your child and his friends or joining neighborhood activities can all aid your child's social development and strengthen your relationship. These activities are likely to encourage friendships that break through the typical age and sex boundaries found in school.
  • Assess the school environment. When you are choosing a school, try to gauge the social atmosphere. What are the school rules on behavior? Is there a kind, accepting environment for all children? Are children encouraged to cooperate?
  • Look at yourself as a social model for your child. You don't have to be popular any more than your child does, but your own tendencies toward social withdrawal or interaction will have a powerful effect on our child.
  • Find professional help, if necessary. For some children, psychological therapy can help. If your child is extremely withdrawn, consistently the scapegoat, very aggressive or easily angered, talk to a professional who can help him develop appropriate ways of relating to his peers.

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