How To Teach Your Child to Make Friends

The Nanny Line, Spain’s premiere nanny agency, wants to help you teach your child how to make friends.  Navigating friendships can be a stressful part of childhood, whether it is a room full of new classmates at the same school, a recent move to Barcelona or Madrid, or even if you are an expat family who moves frequently.  When your child feels left out, it is hard not to want to jump in, take control, and try to make everything better for them. Here are 15 research-based suggestions for how to help your child make friends.

 

Build Social Awareness

 

1.  Teach your children how to talk about their feelings.

Research shows that this skill helped 2-5 year-olds regulate their feelings.  Those children were more in touch with their emotions and even had more friends.

2.  Model “active listening” for your kids so that they learn to be good listeners for their friends.

Child psychologists found that unpopular children developed more friendships once they went through active-listening training.

3.  Teach empathy.

For example, if you see another child having a temper tantrum in the grocery market, ask your child to try to name which emotions the upset child might be feeling and why they are so angry.

4.  Build face-reading skills.

This article offers specific exercises you can do with your child to help build both their (and your) ability to interpret other’s emotional state, Why?  Research shows that children who are better facial-decoders are more popular and do better academically- a double benefit!

5.  Create their ideal friend.

Ask your child to make a list of the qualities they think a good friend would have.  This exercise can help them learn about what to look for, why some kids might not be the best friend choice for them, and how they can be a better friend themselves.

 

Foster Connections to Make Friends

 

6.  Schedule play dates.

According to this article“Socializing can be much easier in one-on-one situations … and the greatest potential benefit is the creation of a shared experience, a bond that the two children can then build on at school.”  Our English-speaking nannies are experts at making friends at playgrounds and other nanny hangouts to give your child a chance for low-key time hanging out with other children. You can read about fun activities to do for play dates in both Madrid and Barcelona in some of our earlier blog posts. 

7.  Raise a team player.

Encourage your child to try cooperative activities (team robotics) vs. competitive and individualistic sports (tennis).  Less aggressive children are better liked by their peers.  Our after-school babysitters can help coordinate after-school schedules and transport your little ones to new and different activities.

8.  Celebrate small successes.

Help build your child’s social confidence by calling attention to situations you have observed where they had a positive social interaction with a peer (see #11 below).

9.  Encourage sharing.

If you have a play date at your house, put away all solitary games and activities designed for just one child or any toys that might provoke fighting or competition.  For example, try hiding a favorite toy your child has had trouble sharing in the past as an extra insurance policy for a successful play date.

10. Practice to reduce anxiety.

Role play and trouble-shoot potentially difficult social situations with your child.  For example, “What would you do if you saw several classmates playing together and you wanted to join in?”  Be specific, “What would you say?” “What if they said they didn’t want you to join in?”

 

Take a Step Back

 

11. Be a fly on the wall.

Try to just observe how your child plays with other children during a play date.  Our skilled nannies will also be able to give you a full report about how your child has interacted with other friends at play dates or in group settings.  

12. Lose your own biases.

It is ok if your son only has friends who are girls.  Or, maybe your child does not need or want as many friends as you do.  What matters is that they have some peers that they are able to find connection with beyond you.

13.  Back off, especially once your child is no longer a toddler.

The more you hover and intervene, the less likely your child is to learn their own social skills. It is hard to watch your child get hurt, but with friendship, there will be some bumps and scrapes along the way, just like when they were learning to walk.

14.  Move beyond BFF’s.

For some reason our society has decided that children, especially girls, need to have a best friend.  It is healthier and more inclusive to teach your children about having many different friends that can change depending on the setting, the day, and stage of life.  This is a guaranteed way to reduce drama and avoid some friendship heartache.

15.  Look outside school for friends.

Having friends who don’t go to the same school – for example, from art class, your neighborhood or family friends – can help to boost your child’s confidence, especially if she’s having friendship troubles at school.

 

Learning how to make friends is a life-long skill.  The Nanny Line’s English-speaking nannies and babysitters can’t wait to help teach your children how to make friends.  Check out our nanny all-stars on our webpage and follow us on Facebook and Instagram to find out about group play dates and other activities we offer where your child could meet new friends.

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