When I was around 10 years old, we moved cities, and while I was excited tolive in this new place, have my own room, and enjoy the amenities available atthis new society, my biggest fear was loneliness. And justly so! Making friendsis perhaps one of the most challenging things that happen in a child’s life,especially in the early years. I remember being a reclusive child for the firsttwo of months in this new environment. I am just thankful the phase lasted onlya couple of months, and I went on to make friends, who I am close to eventoday, after they have moved continents and onto different roles in life. Yes,friendship is perhaps the most important relationship in our lives outside ofour immediate family and in a sense our chosen family.
Friends can provide emotional support, can stand up for you in trickysituations, and tell you its going to be alright, after you have had a roughday! In fact, some experts believe that the single biggest predictor of yourchild’s success later in life is his/her ability to make friends. In hindsight,I can see how I have experienced all of these benefits and more, but it wasbumpy ride tin the beginning, and if it wasn’t for my parents, I would not havebeen able to make the kind of friends I did.
You see, it was my mother, who prompted me into my very first friendshipswhen I was a toddler, by setting up play dates for me with her friends’ childrenand my classmates. We would go out on weekends to the local park and enjoyrides and eat street side food, and slowly we forged a bond that sailed methrough the first few years of my school life.
After we moved, it was my parents who sensed my loneliness and worked ononce again helping me to come out of my shell to make new friends. My mom atthat time enrolled me into a hobby classes for the summer, giving me a chanceto interact with other children my age, and making me comfortable in the new city. By putting me in different situations, my parents effectively taught me how tomake friends wherever I went. By the time I went to college, I had plenty ofgood friends and of course my closest allies as well.
So, when I got the opportunity to write this blog, I thought, why not sharesome of the tricks my parents used with me, and some of the things I try withmy son today, as he steps out into the world on his own, at his pre-school.
Communication is key: No matter what phase in your child’slife you are dealing with, it all begins with communication. They need to knowyou understand their feelings and fears. When they first begin school, it isimportant to soothe them constantly by remind him/her that other children inthe class are also new just like him/her and they too miss their moms and dads,so they have to be brave for each other. Encouraging your child to find onenice thing to say to someone that day is another way to teach him/her how toreach out to people. It can be something very simple, like telling themthey did a good job in painting, or music time.
Identify a hobby class: This one really works, I know frommy own experience. When I first moved to a new city, my mom enrolled me into alocal art class, and that’s where I met some of my first friends. A childfeels confident in an environment where he/she is doing something that he/sheloves and can be an ideal setting for him/her to reach out and make friends.
Arrange Play dates: If your child mentions somebody fromhis/her classroom, ask him/her if they would like to have that child over toplay. Keep play dates short and sweet. An hour or two is plenty oftime for a successful play date. Make sure that there are some plannedactivities as a basis for the play date, as this leaves minimum room for atussle – for example you can plan a trip to the neighborhood sports club for aswim or a trip to children’s play area. Also if you invite a child overto play with yours, then make sure you discuss some of the play rules with yourchild beforehand, in order to make the play date fun for both, things like whatto share and how to behave, can help your child feel at ease when the hisfriend explores his toys.
However the most important thing to remember is that children emulate theirparents most. So, you can show through example of your friendships, what acherished relationship it is for you, and how you value those people in yourlife. You can start by telling your child how you first met your closestfriends and share with them instances that have helped the friendship blossomover the years. And if you have any more tips on helping young children makefriends, I would love to know them. So write in and share your thoughts, I’lllook forward to it.