Childhood is full of new, exciting, sometimes scary adventures, and it is even better with friends. What parents may not realize is that actually making friends is also one of those adventures! While some kids are natural social butterflies, others may need extra support to come out of their cocoons. Here are a few evidence-based ways parents can help their children gain confidence in their friend-making abilities.
Research shows that kids who grow up in respectful, warm homes are kinder, less aggressive, more sympathetic, and more self-assured — all qualities of a great friend! Practice positive reinforcement and explain, rather than using disciplinary tactics that shame or punish. Sensitive, responsive parenting is key to making sure kids feel good about themselves and their choices.
Emotions are tricky to navigate for adults and children alike. Understanding them is important, and how parents respond to their children’s moods can make or break future self-regulation. Take the time to talk your little ones through their tough feelings. As they grow, those healthy strategies will bring stability and comfort to their relationships.
Good listeners make great friends. Practice conversational skills with your child, like making introductions, taking turns speaking, and asking questions. Listening isn’t limited to just talking, either. Empathy — understanding the feelings, experiences, and perspectives of others — can also be a component of listening. Body language, tone, and situational observation all give important clues to what a person is really feeling and saying. It’s almost like having mind-reading powers, which means your kiddo can be a Super Friend!
Children who feel safe, supported, and sure of themselves are likely to feel comfortable seeking out friendships and to be great companions to the friends they make. By providing an encouraging, empathetic home environment, parents can set their child up for a lifetime of social success.