Help your pre-schooler make friends
When your child goes to school for the first time, most parents are worried about him/her ‘fitting in’ and making friends. Some children might find it easy to make friends and some might take more time with it but it is still important for all parents to ensure that they keep a watch on their child’s social development. We live in a social world and these early lessons and experiences with their peers should be as positive as possible for you little one. Here are some tips to make that happen:
Play with your child to find out more about your child’s play style. You can see how he acts in a play situation. If there is anything that is a cause for concern, address him in an open and gentle manner. For example if it seems like your child has a trouble sharing then explain to him that since both of you are playing together he/she should share his/her toys because that’s the nice thing to do, and that is how you can make friends. (Teach your child to share)
Have lots of play dates.
Play dates are one of the best ways a child can make new friends and learn how to act in a social situation.
If your child is shy or awkward around new people then you can call only one child over, to ease him into the situation.
If your pre-schoolers play-date is older then that will be an added advantage if your child is shy because he/she will have more developed social skill and be able to connect with your pre-schooler easier.
You should monitor the play-date until the children become more comfortable with one another. However be a passive participant.
If your child mentions a new friend at school then try to set-up a play date with that child to get the two children more comfortable with each other.
Plan some activities for the children to do during the play date. This will put the pressure off from either of them to initiate something fun. It can be anything from a simple board game to crafts to playing with a ball outside. Remember that children have short attention spans so ensure you have enough activities for the entire play-date. (Fun activities to teach your child the letters of the alphabet)
If your child doesn’t make friends on the first day then don’t be too worried. If you go out of your way to make him feel better about that then alarm bells that didn’t even occur to your child initially, might ring. Just show a positive attitude towards your pre-schoolers social skills and gently encourage him to overcome his hesitations and make friends.
Do not call your child ‘shy’ or ‘quite’ to others in front of him/her. This might lead to him/her not making an effort to go and talk to others, because he believes your words about him/her being too shy or incapable of approaching others. Children believe everything that their parents say. So instead try giving an example from the past where he did make friends although he found it a bit hard to at first and tell him/her that she is lots of fun and should let others see that too. In this manner you are subtly telling your pre-schooler to get over his fears and building a positive self-image.
To give your child confidence in his/her social skills then practice makes perfect. So give your child an opportunity to speak to others on a daily basis. Ask him/her to order the food at a restaurant or to request a sales clerk for a particular item. The more interaction he/she has the more confident he/she will be in being put in new situations like these. Praise them for doing a good job with it as well.
Children pick up on their parent’s behaviour, so you can have joint play dates where the kids and the parents are called over. Maybe you can play fun board games with the entire family. In this manner the children can also observe your social skills and they might try to imitate them.
Encouraging your child to be kind and nice to his friends or generally encouraging good behaviour is usually done through talking to them. If this approach is getting old then you can also try reading them story books with morals and at the end subtly relate the stories to real life situations and let your child think over that. If you find that your child is being mean, relate the action to one of his/her story books and ask him if that’s how he wants to make his friend feel. Children relate greatly to the fairy tales that you read to them, so use it as another good learning opportunity. (8 tips for bedtime reading)