How to help a child make friends?

Posted on: 02.11.2022.

Author: mjug

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a major impact on the social determinants of mental health for children. Social isolation and the closure of schools and preschools have made it more difficult for children to socialize and communicate and maintain friendship.

For children in these new circumstances, making new friends is a huge challenge, and it applies mostly to children with less developed social skills. Children with less developed social skills often withdraw to the security of their own home and refuse to meet and socialise with their peers. Going to kindergarten or school can be a huge issue for those children.

Children with less developed social skills are more likely to be the target of peer abuse and rejection. Such experiences can lead to further retrenchment and fear of building relationships with others. If children's difficulties in socialization are not resolved in time, more serious problems may emerge later, such as social anxiety, school phobia, etc.

How do we recognize the social difficulties children have?

- The child expresses a wish for more friends.

- The child struggles to approach other children.

- The child is "stuck" when communicating with peers.

- The child has a tendency to lose friends when he or she earns them.

In order to better understand your child's strengths and weaknesses, it is important to talk with your child about their social experiences.

Talk to them about how they feel when they are with other children and when they need to meet other children.

Talk to educators and teachers to find out about the kinds of challenges your child is facing in kindergarten or school.

How can we help a child?

Talk to your child about their struggles.It is important that there is a trusting relationship between the parents and the child, so that the child is willing to share their issues with you.

Teach your child social skills like approaching other children, introducing themselves and meeting them. Don't criticize children if you see that they make mistakes in social interactions, and praise effort and progress.

Teach the child to be cooperative and to share with other children.

Encourage the child to express their thoughts and feelings openly, without violating the feelings, opinions and attitudes of others.

Encourage your child to socialize with children outside of kindergarten or school. Educational institutions can bring with them many stresses, such as the pressure to succeed, so that children may find it difficult to socialise quality with their peers.

Be a good role model for the child, maintain your own friendships so that the child can learn directly from your behaviour. Share your own stories and challenges that you have faced with your child to let them know that you understand them and that there is a way to overcome those challenges.

As friendships play a central role in the development of children's social, emotional and cognitive capacities as well as their overall mental health it is extremely important to note and react to settlement and maintenance difficulties in order to eliminate them on time.

Written by: Marica Marasović, mag.psych.

MBM Mental Health Center