Helping Your Child Make Friends
By Sharon Scott, LPC, LMFT – Counselor’s Corner –
Some children are born with the gift for gab. They can (and will!) talk to anyone about anything. It’s so natural for them and is easy. Other children, especially only children, may communicate well with adults, but not as well with kids.
And some children are very reserved which may cause difficulty in making friends. They get nervous and don’t know what to say so they often end up not talking to others. When kids don’t interact quite a bit with peers, they can feel left out and lonely. Adults sometimes say that the child is shy. Please never say that to a child as it puts a label on them which they will likely fulfill.
There are ways to help children in meeting and greeting other kids. It requires gentle coaching and role-playing. One young client in my private counseling practice is so quiet that she says she is confident when she’s alone and not so when with others her age. She is 15, cute as a button and a very good student. She never gets called or texted by school mates. She is worried about school starting soon.
I’ve been working with her for over a month on
1. Selecting friends (what kind of people does she want to spend time with)
2. Greeting (practicing smiling and saying hi!)
3. Chit chat (having a mental list of topics to discuss such as teachers, subject, hobbies, sports, etc.)
In my office, we have role-played many hypothetical situations with me pretending to be a girl her age at school. We’ve acted out meeting someone new, reacquainting herself with someone whom she had a class with last year, talking to another quiet person, and joining a club/team at school so she will be thrown in with a group.
The repetition and positive reinforcement I’ve given her has allowed her to be optimistic about this school year and that she can have a decent social life. She really has come a long way in her practice. And if one can do it in practice, then it can be done in real life. If you have a reserved child, this is something you can practice to help them become more skilled interpersonally.
And remember that repetition of any skill makes a person become more comfortable in its use.
Copyright © 2012, Sharon Scott. No reproduction without written permission from author.
The guide for parents/educators on how to peer-proof children and teens is Peer Pressure Reversal: An Adult Guide to Developing a Responsible Child, 2nd Ed.
Her popular book for teens, How to Say No and Keep Your Friends, 2nd Ed., empowers kids to stand out,not just fit in!
A follow-up book for teens, When to Say Yes! And Make More Friends, shows adolescents how to select and meet quality friends and, in general, feel good for doing and being good.
Sharon also has a charming series of five books for elementary-age children each teaching an important living skill and "co-authored" with her savvy cocker spaniel Nicholas who makes the learning fun.Their book on managing elementary-age peer pressure is titled Too Smart for Trouble.