Guest post written by Nida Khan
If your child struggles with friendship, they are not alone!
Does your kid choose to watch T.V. rather than meet the guests that have come over? Is your kid shy to a level that even saying a simple hello turns them cold? Have you struggled to convince them to talk to his friends only to hear, “I don’t have any friends.”?
Some of us have been there and don’t want our ducklings to meet the same fate. Before knowing what can be done to improve their growing up days, it becomes important to recognize the barriers stopping their development.
Understanding the Problems
Although every child is different, difficulties with friendship can often fall under two broad categories:
1) Your child is shy (or socially anxious). The feeling of wanting to make friends but being unable to say ‘hi’ or not responding to others’ invitations to play, are great examples to describe this issue.
These can arise from their simple lack of comfort with others, insecurity and fear, or from never-ending thoughts of ‘will the other kid like me or not?’, which expose them to anxiety at such a tender age. The pressure of getting acceptance from their peers make them avoidant and step back from flourishing opportunities.
2) Underdeveloped interpersonal skills. Some kids find it hard to correctly interpret social cues (signals send by people through body language and expressions). For example, they may speak out without organizing their thoughts, act in irritable or aggressive ways, or lack interest in conversations. These tend to put off their friends and make it problematic to keep their friendship which is the next major step after a relationship is formed.
Just because your child is suffering today, it doesn’t mean it has to be like this always. You can step in and with gentle hands mold your kid’s behavior for a better life. Yes, you – the parents – can help your little ones make good friends.
You are the role model
Every parent knows that children imitate those around them – including you! From the way you talk on your phone to the way you do the household chores. Your kids copy your behavior, so it becomes really important to look into how you behave in your daily life.
If you get upset about things, use foul language or act with insensitivity in front of your kids, then it’ll prove to be detrimental for their mental and social health. Get rid of your bad habits, after all home is the first school and you are the first teacher in your child’s life.
Every child is different
Just because your child is refusing to attend a social event does not mean it’s a sign of some problem. However, you’ll want to be attentive, tuned in, and aware of how they are functioning socially. Take notes of their likes and dislikes and try to work accordingly. If they struggle with feeling motivated to go out and be social, consider social events that relate to one of their interests rather than yours.
Observation is the key so Observe. Observe. Observe.
Will you like to share your tough moments with others if you know they don’t listen to your fun ones? Think about it. You won’t. The same goes for your kids.
Young ones have stories that can fill a library; but unfortunately, not all parents are ready to listen. We think that it’s fruitless hearing them talk about their everyday activities explained to the minutest of details, but if you give them your time, then it’s surely a blessing in disguise.
By listening to them, you open the doors of warmth and reason where your child will willingly share his troubles with you. He’ll feel safe and supported which is a great way to start a conversation. From there slowly proceed towards discussing the issues if he has any.
It’s essential to be genuine in your approach and eventually you’ll find yourself becoming his first friend.
Exposure to the world
Though it’s crucial to give your child the necessary space, initially you have to guide them into finding out the right space that is what kind of place suits them well and for this you have to accompany them in the adventure.
Make them take slow and comfortable steps towards various activities like signing up for a swimming class, attending book events, buying a skateboard e.t.c. In this manner, he’ll get along with people who share the same interests which will make it easy for them to open up.
Share with your kids the pros and cons of things, your experiences and how to deal with different personalities along the way. Encourage cooperation and teach your kid the communication skills needed to have healthy relationships.
Be easy and consistent
Bringing a change into someone’s life is a tough task but not impossible. There’ll be times when your kid will have mood swings making them do things that he normally doesn’t do and at that moment you have to show patience.
It’s true that you’ll have bad days too but make sure that you don’t do anything that may severe the ties with your little loved one. Strengthen your relationship slowly because giving them a three hour attention one day and ignoring them the next will not support them in any way.
Most people think that making friends is totally a personal matter but it’s not really the case. Like everything in this life, children have to be taught how to make friends and not only that but also how to keep them.
The parents and caregivers can work as useful lenses through which the child can see the working of the outside world, we can help them find good friends and steer them away from bad company.
If you believe that your sincere efforts are still not benefiting your kid then it’s advisable to get in contact with a psychologist or a family counsellor because your child’s health is important.
Nida Khan is a writer who aims to provide a helping hand to the people in need. She resonates with the struggles of mental health issues and therefore wants to paint a new portrait of a healthy world. Bring the colours!