Friendships are important now that your child has started school. Life can be tough for a six-year-old who isn’t part of the “in crowd” at school – your child will feel miserable if she’s shut out by the class clique.
Teach your child social skills to help her make friends. Knowing how to share for instance, is vital for children to get along. Nobody wants to play with someone who won’t share her toys, books or games. Sharing is a sign of trust and friendship, and children in this age group expect others to share what they have with them when they play together. How good is your child at sharing? Perhaps her reluctance in this area is one of the factors keeping her out of the clique.
The same applies to taking turns and following rules. It’s difficult for children to play any sort of game together unless they recognise the unspoken social rule of sticking to an agreed format and of maintaining their position in the queue. Many fights among older children occur because one of these social skills is absent, instantly souring the potentially friendly atmosphere. Breaking the rules is a fast route to rejection.
Body language also matters. Watch your child when she is with children her own age, in order to identify if she uses enough positive body language such as smiling, direct eye contact, standing close to them (but not too close) and laughing when they laugh.
To help your child make more friends when she feels shut out, try the following techniques:
• Reassure her that she can make new friends One of the effects of being rejected socially is that she loses her self-confidence. Boost her enthusiasm and self-belief by pointing out that she has the power to change the situation if she tries and that she can get to know other people in school.
• Play games that require cooperation This is an effective way to teach your child how to be friendly. For instance, a ball game that requires teamwork and cooperation can only be played properly if you and your child work together.
• Show her how to share and take turns Your five-year-old may still have difficulty sharing, so give her lots of experience with this. Explain to her that the rules benefit her as much as others and encourage her to share.
• Praise her when she shows kindness Even without your guidance, there will be times when your child helps one of her siblings. When you see this happen, make a big fuss and let her know how pleased you are with her.
• Give her advice on resolving disagreements Explain to your child that it is better for her to sort out disagreements with her friends through discussion rather than storming off in a temper tantrum or raising her voice at them.
• Teach her to compromise Since friendships often become strained when two children want the same thing at the same time, one solution is for both to reach a compromise so that each can have access to what they want.
• Let her help around the house Assign her specific jobs at home that involve helping others. For instance, she might help her brother tidy up a mess, assist you in baking a cake, or help her younger sister complete a puzzle toy.
• Check on her progress Talk to her each day about her experiences at school, offering advice on how to deal with any of the social situations that have arisen. Your day-to-day support will encourage her to persist with her social efforts.
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