If you’ve ever wondered how to help your child make friends, it’s time to get down to the basics! Keep reading for a simple, but often forgotten life skill that teaches kids to make friends with immediate results.
When you first become a parent, it never crosses your mind that you might need to help your child make friends down the road.
Like many parents, I think I just kind of assumed that kids make friends when they start activities or go to school.
How to Help Your Child Make Friends
I can’t even remember making friends as a kid — I’ve known my best friend since we were two years old, so it was never something I had to actively try to do. That’s not saying that I was the most popular kid in class, but I always had a small group of close friends.
As soon as your kids hit school age where they should start socializing, you realize it’s not always that easy. Making friends doesn’t seem to come as easily for some kids as it does for others.
Part of that is our fault as parents because we don’t teach kids how to make friends.
The good news is that it’s not as difficult as you think! Most of the advice I’ve read on the subject majorly overcomplicates the topic of helping children make friends.
What these “experts” forget are the very basics of social interaction.
It all boils down to one simple thing: teaching kids to introduce themselves.
The Simple (but Forgotten) Act of Saying Hello
When I was in college I moved to a new city with my family. I knew absolutely no one.
One day I was complaining to my mom how unfriendly everyone seemed at my new school. Instead of commiserating, my mom gave me a challenge.
It was pretty simple actually — I was to introduce myself to one new person every day.
That’s it, just say “hi.”
So I did. What did I have to lose?
Of course, if I thought of something else beyond a simple hello, even better! Sometimes I would offer a compliment on a cute bag or pair of shoes. Other times I would ask a classmate about an upcoming university event.
Occasionally people were caught off guard — as a society we generally avoid eye contact with strangers, not to mention actually speaking to a stranger. We’re trained from a young age to “never talk to strangers” after all.
However, the response to my experiment was overwhelmingly positive. People are generally receptive to kind words or even just a hello. It turns strangers into familiar faces, or even into a friend.
This is actually how I met my first real friend in Houston. Since I no longer avoided eye contact with my fellow classmates, I think my body language was much more open.
One day in class, another girl leaned in to ask me a question and we struck up a conversation. From that point on we sat next to each other in lecture and became lifelong friends.
If this worked so well for an adult, it could easily work just as well for kids too right?
Helping Kids Make Friends with One Simple Life Skill
Even though I had such a positive experience with my “saying hi” experiment in college, it was actually my husband who started teaching our four-year-old to approach other kids and say hello.
We used to go to the playground and our daughter would shy away from other kids, even though it was obvious how much she wanted to join in the fun. So one day my husband gave her a nudge and told her to simply walk up to the kids and introduce herself.
Hi, my name is…
Your child can make friends wherever they go by doing the following:
- Introduce themselves
- Ask if they can join
Never once has our daughter been ignored or turned down. Most of the other children are happy to make a new friend, especially when they don’t have to go out of their way or put themselves out there to do it.
Our daughter makes friends wherever she goes. It’s inspiring to watch and always reminds me that I need to be better about speaking up and approaching others in my community too.
What Age Does this Work For?
This technique is perfect for younger children who are just starting to socialize. If you teach your child this skill that will help your child make friends right from the start, it will be easier for them later on in life.
That being said, learning to be comfortable approaching new people and how to introduce oneself is a skill that every child, tween, and teen should learn. It’s never too late! I did it in college!
Start with the Basics, and Start Now
Sometimes the most effective solutions to our parenting problems are the most basic, and sometimes they are right in front of our face the whole time!
When our toddler wasn’t sleeping through the night, it wasn’t the fancy sleep training that did the trick, it was a simple diet change.
Likewise, when our daughter was learning to make friends, it came down to the fact that she needed to know how to approach other kids. She needed to know the first step: saying hello.
Because that seems so glaringly obvious to us adults (even though we don’t always practice it ourselves), we often skip right over step one of saying hello and introducing ourselves.
The next time you know you’ll be in a place with other kids, you can help your child make friends by giving them a pep talk beforehand. You can even practice with you child.
It sounds simple, but you might just be surprised by the results!