Friendships part 3 – Making Friends

“Princess, can you please ask that girl standing over there with her parents to join you and your friends”, was often a common request I would make of my daughter when she was younger.

Her reply was always, “But mum, I have already asked her and she hasn’t come. She just wants to stay with her parents.”

Sometimes parents, we need to push our kids to make friends. Yes, there are times when it is awkward and hard, and other times when our kids are really shy. But sometimes I believe some kids are actually wanting attention by hanging around their parents when they don’t take opportunities to play and hang out with others, especially when they have been personally asked.

Sometimes we need, as parents, to push our kids more to make friends.

Sometimes we need, as parents, to teach our kids how to make friends.

When one of our children was really young, they were extremely shy in one particular social setting. Whenever we had new people visit, this child would prefer to hide in their room and we couldn’t get them to politely speak to visitors. It took a bit of effort on both of our parts (& I don’t believe that we personally handled it the best way by forcing this child to say hello to these people) but something worked as this was resolved after awhile of persistently modelling, training, and forcing them to say hello. This child now is very social and has many close friends is a number of different social settings and facets of life. In fact, one of this child’s strengths now is in making friends.

We did not make excuses for this child or allow them to hide around us. We didn’t speak for this child.

Parents – we need to sometimes train and practice helping our kids to gain skills at talking with people. Learning to talk to new people is a valuable skill to learn in the process of making new friends. In this series on friendships with the last 2 blog posts, I have outlined the purposes for having friends and expectations of a friend.

The skills of making friends and learning to chat to new people are invaluable. Below I have outlined a few of these and how we, as parents, can assist our children in making friends.

  1. Pray

Pray for your child and potential friends and their character. Never underestimate the power of prayer.

  1. Sow a healthy identity into your child

When your child grasps hold of who they are and how God really sees them, they have a healthy and robust view of themselves. This aids in helping them make friends. They will approach other people, no matter how nervous they may feel, because they are confident in who they really are. Self worth is an emotional appraisal of your own value and this will either help you or hinder you in making friends.

  1. Brainstorm with your child friendship qualities.

Help your child identify their positive qualities and what they would like in a friend. Help them realise that character qualities can ‘rub off’ on a friend so if you are around someone who is dishonest, then you can easily get sucked into being dishonest etc. 1 Corinthians 15:33 in the Bible says “Bad company corrupts good character”.

  1. Practice conversational skills.

Role play the process of starting a conversation. Chat about the great things that you can ask people as you start to get to know people. Model this in your behaviour when you meet people.

  1. Create opportunities for your child to meet other children.

Hang out in places where your child can meet other children. If you are at church, hang around in the foyer after church, chatting to people. If you are always having to leave immediately after church finishes, then you are not allowing your child, and yourselves, time to chat and meet new people and potential friends. Invite other families to your home for a meal or perhaps a park for a play. Perhaps do an activity together, especially if you have boys eg go for a bike ride. Join kids clubs, activity clubs or sporting clubs. Time is necessary if you want to meet new people and potential friends. If you are always busy, you are doing yourself, and your kids, a huge disservice as it doesn’t allow time for you all to meet new people and have time to get to know them.

  1. If someone asks you to join their group, go ahead. Be friendly.

They have approached you and made the first move. You now need to respond. When your child sticks by your side when they have been asked to join a group of kids, your child is not being friendly. They are communicating that this group of new people are not worthy of your being around them.

  1. Read great books about friendship

Find some great books about making friends and chat about the books as you read them. When my kids were younger, we would often read biographies etc and talk about the character qualities of the people involved and their decision making abilities. We would then segue off that into some practical examples of how our kids could make great decisions in certain situations or how to make friends or include people in our activities.

I would love to know what things you have implemented in your family life to help your child be able to make new friends. Please feel free to comment below.