Friendships are important for everyone. Even though your preschooler will not make lasting friendships, it is important for them to get started early in social interaction. As parents, we can help them in getting the full experience of this social interaction. Here are some tips on how to help them make friends.
Play with them - Arm them with social skills
You, are your child's first friend. Play games and participate in activities with them. This will teach them the social skills needed to play with their friends.
- Teach them how to cooperate and work in a team, by playing building blocks with them.
- Play a car race with them where you push cars along the floor. Sometimes you will win, sometimes they will. By your behaviour, you can teach them how to win and lose sportingly.
- Play a board game where you have to take turns. It teaches them how to take turns.
Teach children to express their feelings in words
There will always be moments during a play session, where a child feels frustrated. Teach them how to express their feelings in words rather than scream, react physically or bite. How do you teach them this? By being a role model yourself. If your first reaction to frustration is screaming (at your kids or at anyone else) or a physical reaction, your children are learning the same. And when they express their feelings, listen to them carefully and respond to them. Help them settle differences by using words.
Show them friendship in action
Let your children meet your friends and see you interact with them. It shows them how much fun you have with your friends and how you have mutual respect for each other. Watching your interactions will show them what you gain. You can also have a conversation with them after the interaction and point out to them how there was give and take, and how you had mutual respect and how you helped each other and thus had fun the whole time with your friends.
Read about friendship
Locate stories about friendships and read them to children. Whatever series of books you pick, you will find atleast one about friendship. If not, you can also makeup stories yourself or find them in mythology (eg., Krishna and Sudama). Reading about friendships helps children overcome inhibitions and motivates them to make friends.
Putting children in a preschool can help them interact with other children. But that is only a couple of hours in a structured envronment. As a parent, you must also help your children meet friends when they are at home. This often takes place in the form of playdates where you invite other kids over. Some of us tend to get stressed over this - trying to make the house look clean, getting ready etc., and it does take effort to coordinate with another child especially with busy schedules. But unless you facilitate this, your child may not be able to have access to friends. As parents, we also need to take the effort
Friendship does not happen automatically for all children. Some need help. Some are naturals at it. But Indian parents can help their young children along on this process by following the tips above.