If your child has difficulty making friends, summer may be
the time to start to do something about it. Some children, while
not rejected by their peers, are merely neglected by them. There
are other children who are afraid of new adventures. They find it
difficult to take the risk to seek out a friend. Both groups of
children often become solitary and look to TV and
computer games as substitutes for real friends. This can become
a problem for parents and their children since most of the TV
programs are not helpful to the developing child.
Some children do not have friends because they do not
recognize cues from other children that they are doing something
that is unacceptable. One of these cues is facial expressions.
If your child seems to have this problem, try showing him
pictures of different facial expressions and what they mean.
Then help your child not only to recognize them but to develop
more appropriate ways of responding to different expressions.
Parents can also supervise and encourage their child when he
attempts to use this new skill.
Some children do not know how to reciprocate when an
overture to friendship is made. There are other children who are
so fearful of being rejected that they do not recognize an
overture when it occurs. When you see this happening to your
child, give him the words he could use or show him how he could
offer to share some of his toys with the other child to make the
child feel accepted as a friend. You might want to role-play an
actual situation you observed involving your child so that he
learns the skills needed to recognize a potential friend.
Very young children who are involved in antisocial behavior
like hitting, biting and whining should be helped before they go
to school. This behavior will inhibit their ability to make
friends and might make them hate school. Parents can help these
children be being very concrete in their suggestions and by
taking them through a series of steps to practice other ways to
deal with their frustrations.
Parents can help by modeling behavior necessary to make and
keep a friend. Talk about how much you enjoy your friends and
the effort you make to keep them. Encourage your children to
work at their friendships. If they have a fallout with a friend,
help them to resolve the problem and to reconcile with their
Children who are cautious and have difficulty forming
friendships can be helped by joining established groups like the
boy or girl scouts, theater or sport groups like soccer. It
helps if they can develop a skill that will be admired by their
peers. Having your child join a biking group formed by your
local bike store might be a good beginning. Not only is the
child making friends, he is exercising his body and learning to
use his time in active ways rather than being passive by watching
Children in today’s world need a least one friend who gives
them emotional support. Some children have computer friends and
feel that is a satisfactory substitute. It is not the same.
They can cut off computer friends by the flick of a switch. That
is not emotional support. It is passive friendship. True
friendship requires commitment and give and take. Children who
have acquired this skill live happier lives and seem to thrive.
I encourage you to help your child to find and to keep a friend.
It may take some effort on your part, but it is worth it and
cannot be left to chance.