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Parenting

Help Your Preschooler Make Friends

Interacting with people is part and parcel of everyday life. Thus it is important to equip young ones with a skill that will be helpful to them for a lifetime.

All parents want their children to be happy, successful, and to achieve their full potential. Throughout life, the way your child interacts with people – whether at home, in school, when at play, or eventually at work – will make a large difference in their future. Thus, learning how to interact and get along with others is one of the most important tasks your son or daughter will undertake throughout childhood.

Psychosocial development (developing socially and emotionally) is a vital process for all young children, and has effects on the intellectual functioning of the child. The first thing a parent can do to help their child develop socially is setting a good example for how to act, and interact with other people. The parents are the first people that a child sees and interacts with and functions as well as their first playmates. Before their first birthday, infants will smile at the sight of their parents’ faces, voices, or touch, and this is their first experience with social interaction.

Hence, parents should be seen positively interacting with family members, friends, and other people that come in to the child’s world. Parents can model positive social behaviour by being polite and courteous to everyone that you and using “please” and “thank you,” when interacting with others or demonstrating showing positive examples of sharing, such as taking turns while talking, eating, or playing games.

Here are a few ideas and specific strategies that you can try, especially if your child is having trouble making friends.

Set up a play date
If your child is shy, setting up a play date, or an opportunity for them to play with another child under controlled settings, is a great way to begin socialisation.

Some tips for successful play dates include:

  • Keep the play date small – the whole group should be no bigger than three children, preferably ones they already know.

  • Keep the play date short – One or two hours is ideal, as it is important not to over-stimulate the children.

  • Keep the play date organised – Have a few planned activities, games, or toys to encourage positive and fun play for both children.

  • Stay involved – Don’t just leave the children to play amongst themselves without any supervision. Instead guide their play and closely monitor social interactions. This will help children open up to the idea of playing with other children in a safe and non-threatening environment.

Read books or watch programmes about making friends
Expose your child to books and television shows that teach about making friends, sharing, and taking turns. Some great books on the topic are Sharing: How Kindness Grows, by Fran Shaw; The Little Mouse, the Red Ripe Strawberry, and the Big Hungry Bear, by Don and Audry Wood; Franklin’s New Friend, by Paulette Bourgeois, illus. by Brenda Clark; and Fox Makes Friends, by Adam Relf.

Talk about making friends
When the times comes for children to start making friends ask them, “What makes a good friend?” and “What makes a bad friend?”. By doing this, not only will your child know quality friendship traits to look for in others but, they will know how to act themselves to be noticed by others as a good potential friend.