School can be a wonderful place where young children can meet other kids and learn a wide range of social skills as they mature in building friendships. But in some cases, a child may experience difficulty in making friends.
It may be due to the fact that your child has just transferred from another school or comes from a different background than many of the children in the class. Or the child may be introverted or shy, perhaps struggling with a physical, mental, or emotional disability.
Whatever the reason, it can be agonizing to watch a child come home from school dejected each day, saying things like “No one likes me” or “I don’t have anyone to play with.””
If your child makes this kind of statements, don’t write them off as unimportant. The ways in which children relate while young can impact their emotional development and adult relationships. Here are some things that parents can do to help their children make friends at school:
- Join the PTA. Meeting other parents and your child’s teacher can help to foster a network of acquaintances. These people, who share the same educational interests and school activities, may be able to suggest community events or sports teams that your child can join. As adults become acquainted, they may feel better about encouraging their children to visit with yours, and vice versa. Parents should never allow their children to visit at playmates’ homes where they don’t know the parents or the type of environment to which a child will be exposed.
- Become a room mother or teacher’s helper. Accompanying your child to school a few days each month will help him or her feel less alone. Also you can get an idea of the types of kids that share your child’s class, and those that might share common interests. If you help children practice their reading skills, for example, they will know you are so-and-so’s parent, and they may become more interested in getting acquainted with your son or daughter.
- Host a party. Back to school, birthday, or holiday events offer great opportunities for inviting several of your child’s classmates over for a get-together. As parents phone to RSVP, you will be able to have informal conversations that will tell you more about their background and family life, helping to clarify their suitability as your child’s play partner.
- Become a car pool driver for field trips. This is another way of getting to know kids in your child’s class. A drive to the field trip destination provides opportunities for fun interaction that you can monitor. If your child clams up or clowns around too much, you will know how to advise him or her for making a better impression on peers.
- Arrange play dates. Depending on your child’s age, you may be able to arrange a play date with another school-age child if your son or daughter agrees. If they are beyond that stage and prefer making their own friends, take them to the local park or playground some afternoon so they can get to know kids after school on a casual basis.
- Enroll your child in a class, sports team, or club. These are great ways of introducing your children to others their age, especially if friendships are not developing right away at school.
- Give your son or daughter a few pointers about making friends. Do it subtly, to avoid suggesting inadequacy. Library books or videos present themes of good and bad friendships in a variety of ways, so look for these resources discreetly the next time you browse for books.
Making friends can be hard for some kids. But with a parent’s tactful support, potential obstacles turn into welcoming bridges that allow your children to meet and mingle with others of their age.