Encouraging children to build and grow friendships teaches them so many things about the world and each other. It’s the very best way to learn while having the most fun! Every child is different, and forging new friendships can be hard for all of us, especially those with social anxieties and difficulties reading social cues. It’s hard to put yourself out there and take that first step! You can't make friends for anyone else, but there are ways you can encourage and guide healthy social behaviors.
Benefits of Building Friendships
- Friendships help us build social and emotional development. The best way to learn conversation skills is to practice, a lot, with people who are different from us.
- Friendships boost self esteem and confidence. Having a BFF that we can call on at any time for support and encouragement is great for our self esteem. It makes the good times better than the hard times easier.
- Friendships teach us how to communicate and respond to our emotions. We can never anticipate the things that other people are going to tell us. Learning to interpret and respond to other people’s experiences, opinions and interests in real-time is a skill that we never stop learning.
- Friendships help us learn problem-solving and cooperation. Understanding differences and how to deal with internal and external conflict is key to fostering lasting friendships. Cooperation skills bleed into so many other parts of our life; at school, at home and eventually at our jobs. Teaching these skills to our children and modeling them ourselves not only makes us better friends, but better people in general!
Ways to Encourage Your Child to Build New Friendships:
- Using activities that your child already enjoys can help them to feel more comfortable in social situations. Group music classes, sports teams, and art lessons are all structured environments where social connections can flourish through shared interests.
- Even during at home play dates, structured activities can take the pressure off of making conversation and keep engagements focused. Card games, board games, activity cards, and arts & crafts are all easy ways to break the ice with a new friend.
- Help your child create a script for engaging with new friends for the first time. This can be as simple as “Hi, how are you...what kind of things do you like to do?...I like to draw and read…” Practicing these skills at home can make a big difference in how your child reacts to these questions out in the world.
Check out our collection of social emotional learning tools.