How Do I Help My Child Build Healthy Friendships?
Social Skills Building Activity: What Makes a Good Friend?
- Have your child draw a picture or write a story about someone who is a good friend or invite your child to list 3-4 things that make them a good friend.
- Together discuss what character traits they see in a good friend. Some examples include:
- Fun to be around
- Discuss with your child how they can be that type of friend to others.
- Discuss if your child’s current friends have these traits.
- If your child is struggling with a current social situation you can use play with dolls, action figures or stuffed animals to work through how to handle interactions. For older children you can role play with them.
Tips to help your kid with their friendships:
For some children, making and keeping friends comes naturally, while others need some additional support. Social skills, like other skills, can be learned over time.
- Understand your child’s personality.
- Some children prefer to have many friends, while others are satisfied with one or two close friends.
- Neither is wrong or right but understanding your child can help you see where they need support.
- Some children are shy, or need time to warm up to others. It’s okay to let them sit back and observe before socializing.
- Prepare for social interactions. Help your child know what to expect when preparing for social settings.
- Letting them know who will be there.
- Give examples of what they might do together.
- If your child is challenged to read social cues, you might give them some practice time on what those are.
- You can have a code word they can say if they need your support.
- Encourage Healthy Boundaries. Let children know that they can say no to their friends if they don’t want to do something.
- Model Empathy. Having empathy, or the ability to understand another person’s feelings is an important skill for children to be a good friend.
- You can teach this by narrating what you think someone else might be feeling.
- For example, “I notice Sally is crying, she might be feeling sad that she fell.”
- Use books and movies as examples to practice understanding how someone else might be feeling.
- Use Storytelling. If your child is struggling with knowing how to act in specific social interactions, you can tell them a story using yourself or a made up person and what they did in that situation.
- For example, “I remember when I was younger my friend pushed me and it hurt my feelings. I told her to stop and she said sorry and didn’t do it again.”
- Build your child’s self-esteem. The more confident your child is in themselves the more they will be able to make and keep friends.
- Get support.
- Social Skills groups can help students practice social interactions with peers.
- Therapy can help further develop specific skills your child needs.
Children’s books about friendship
- I Don’t Care by Julie Fogliano, Molly Idle and Juana Martinez-Neal
- A Friend for Henry by Jenn Bailey and Mika Song
- My Two Blankets by Irena Kobald and Freya Blackwood