Why Cant my child make Friends

29 Mar

‘I am at a loss.’ She said. ‘My son has no friends.’

Its heart breaking for parents to know that their child has no friends or is never invited to any parties or spends every recess hour being by himself.

Why do some kids struggle socially while others glide effortlessly through the early social dynamics?

Its always been assumed that children naturally learn to make friends and no special learning is required in this area.

This may have been true in an era when families were large and kids learnt to ‘join in’ and engage in whatever game was being played.

Today with the shrinking size of families many children do not have this skill as their primary playmates are their parents, who indulge them and play games at the childs terms.

Such a child does not understand social cues and cannot weave himself through the social maze and hence stands on the outside longing to join in but not knowing how to.

Computer games also allow children to choose what to play and when to play which cause kids to miss out on learning valuable socialization skills like negotiating, reading facial cues, conflict resolution etc

Sometimes children are very shy or bossy – traits which alienate them from others.

With the ability to empathize not completely formed, children can be cruel and reject or exclude others which make the sensitive kids retreat into their shell.

A child who was accepted and liked earlier because the friendship was fostered by parents or based on proximity of the neighborhood may suddenly finds these ties loosening up as she/he moves on to higher grades. Here children make friends with whom they get along. Old friends sometimes get left out and this can be doubly hurtful.

Although some kids may maintain a stoic look, over time this alienation will begin to take its toll on them. They either clown around to get accepted, engage in various kinds of attention seeking behavior or day by day feel sad and disconnected.

What should parents do? Leave them alone to learn how to make friends or step in to assist them?

I believe that Parents need to take the lead when they know that their child is struggling to make friends.

  • Firstly, use Empathy. This is difficult for them. Listen and acknowledge their feelings.
  • Assess your own child – Find out what could be the reason for his/her inability to socialize. You can even check with others who regularly interact with them – like their teachers or classmates; sometimes their perspective will give you insights into the problem.
  • Be a role model- let them watch you interact with others. Being a friend is a skill that has to be learnt and some kids need to watch or have it explained to them.
  • Have a play date – Ask your child to invite someone he/she would like to play with. If you are inviting both the parent and the child, weave an activity around the meeting which will allow you to demonstrate sharing and cooperation with the child and the adult. If there is no adult accompanying the child, be at a reasonable distance from the kids such that you allow co-operative play without your interference but if the play session isn’t going smoothly you can gently intervene.
  • Read stories on friendship to your child – or tell her your own- About friends, the fun times they have, the way they handle disagreements etc
  • Pursue sports and activities where your child meets and interacts with kids his/her age
  • Help them develop basic social skills – give them pointers on – how to start a conversation with someone sitting beside them; To listen and ask questions. Allow them to practice it with family so they feel confident.
  • Assist them to build their self-confidence – Make them aware of their strengths. Encourage them to get into activities that best suit their interests and skill.
  • Explain to them that friends change – Interests change and friendships change and let them know that that’s ok! Its normal to miss the old friends but motivate them to be open to new friendships.
  • Take the help of the school. Teachers can be very creative in organizing semi structured activities which help the child have positive group experiences or get to know class mates who are more accepting.

Assisting a child to understand and cultivate friendships is as important as teaching him to read and write.

Sometimes learning and attention issues can also lead to social challenges.

Whatever be the issue, parents need to keep things in perspective and not overreact but instead provide as many opportunities as possible for children where they can learn and practice social skills.

 

 

 

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